After a tough three months in strict lockdown, mainland Scotland has begun a brighter month when restrictions will start to be gradually lifted.
If everything goes to plan, the country will be ending April a bit closer to normality relative to where we are now, with shops, museums, gyms, restaurants and bars all able to reopen – albeit with some restrictions still in place.
However, we don’t have to wait quite as long as that to get a small amount of relief, as the lockdown starts to be eased from tomorrow.
What changes on Friday?
Speaking at the coronavirus press briefing on Tuesday, Nicola Sturgeon announced that the government would be going ahead with their plan to lift the ‘stay at home’ message from April 2.
People will no longer be asked to stay within their homes for as much time as possible, but that doesn’t mean transport rules will be lifted entirely.
Instead, ‘stay at home’ will be replaced by ‘stay local’, with everyone advised not to leave their local authority area unless it is for an essential reason.
Under the current Scottish Government timetable, that will remain in effect until April 26, when all restrictions on journeys on the Scottish mainland will be lifted.
The timing of tomorrow’s easing has led to some concern, as it coincides with the Good Friday bank holiday.
What is coming next?
A more significant easing will come on Monday, when a number of hotly anticipated reopenings will take place.
Hairdressers and barbers, garden centres and non-essential click and collect will be returning from April 5.
Also on that date, more college students will be able to come back to campus for learning and 12 to 17-year-olds can participate in outdoor contact sports.
Why is this happening now?
The easing of lockdown comes among falling numbers of Covid hospitalisations, intensive care patients and deaths.
Yesterday, the number of patients in hospital with the virus dipped below 250 for the first time since October 5, and the figure of 21 people currently in Scottish intensive care units with coronavirus is the lowest since October 2.
There were six deaths of people with the virus recorded across the country yesterday, when two months ago Scotland was occasionally reporting more than 80 a day.
And the Covid test positivity rate yesterday was just 2.1%, which is lower than it has been at any point since September.
These trends have largely been attributed to the success of the vaccine roll-out.
The reason given by the first minister for picking April 26 as the date for the most significant easing of restrictions was that it is two weeks after the government’s target for vaccinating everyone in the JCVI priority list – who make up 99% of Covid-related deaths.