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Nicola Sturgeon to outline Scotland's way out of Covid lockdown

By John Davidson

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Nicola Sturgeon will set out the way out of lockdown 'in broad terms'.
Nicola Sturgeon will set out the way out of lockdown 'in broad terms'.

The first minister will today reveal how Scotland plans to gradually emerge from the national lockdown.

It follows a similar announcement from UK prime minister Boris Johnson yesterday.

Nicola Sturgeon will set out the Scottish Government’s revised strategic framework and outline in broad terms how the country will gradually emerge from the current restrictions.

She is expected to move cautiously, with young people and social interaction being prioritised over other areas.

The Scottish Government says it will continue to aim to suppress the virus to the lowest possible level as it looks to secure a sustainable exit from lockdown, while striving to return to a more normal life for as many people as possible as quickly as it is safe to do so.

It says the plans for easing lockdown will be driven by data rather than by hard and fast dates but that it will set out an indicative order of priority and proposed phases – with periods of at least three weeks between them.

The first phase will see the current level 4 restrictions gradually eased before a return to the regionalised tier system.

Ms Sturgeon said: “We know we cannot continue in lockdown indefinitely and we must plan a gradual phased return to as much normality as possible.

“The restrictions we have put in place are difficult for individuals, families and businesses across Scotland, but they are working – case numbers have decreased, the numbers of people in hospital and needing intensive care are coming down and we are now seeing fewer vulnerable people dying from this horrible illness.

“This means we can begin to consider how, carefully and gradually, we can return to some normality in Scotland."

She said the immediate priorities would continue to be the return of young people to education, followed by sports activities for young people and limited social interaction for adults.

“A limited number of children and young people were able to return to school yesterday and we have prioritised this because children’s education and wellbeing is such an overriding priority," Ms Sturgeon continued. "Of course, this has only been possible because people across Scotland have worked together and made sacrifices to bring down levels of Covid-19.

“We hope that more children will be able to return to school later in March. And we have published new guidance to enable an easing of restrictions on care home visiting from early March.

“Beyond that, giving people the ability to meet loved ones, initially outdoors, is a priority for easing restrictions within the current level 4.

“As we get to a situation where we can move back to a levels approach, with all or part of the country moving down a level, we can start to carefully open the economy again too.

“The strategic framework sets out as far as possible at this stage how we will approach the gradual easing of restrictions. We will be able to give more detail and clarity in the weeks ahead as we make further progress both on suppressing the virus and vaccinating the population, and as we understand more about the impact of vaccination.

“However, to keep moving in the right direction and avoid setbacks caution will be necessary, which is why the framework will be clear about the need to move in a gradual way.”

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