Scotland’s economy will begin a “phased reopening” from the last week of April, as the country moves to a regional level system of coroanvirus restrictions, Nicola Sturgeon has announced.
Ms Sturgeon’s strategic framework for relaxing controls north of the border diverged in significant ways from the roadmap unveiled on Monday by Boris Johnson, who said he wanted to move England together as a whole to the removal of virtually all restrictions on 21 June.
The first minister told the Scottish Parliament it was not “fair or reasonable” to set “arbitrary” target dates months into the future, and she will wait until mid-March to lay out plans beyond the end of April.
But she also said – in contrast to Mr Johnson – that she was ready to let parts of Scotland with low infection rates move out of lockdown faster and to accelerate the whole plan if vaccines succeed in driving Covid-19 rates down.
The Scottish plan initially envisages a slower return to normal social life than in England, with the phased reopening of non-essential retail, pubs and restaurants, gyms and hairdressers coming from 26 April, two weeks after they open their doors south of the border.
And having allowed the youngest children to return to primary schools ahead of their English counterparts this week, Ms Sturgeon will require others to wait longer.
While England’s schools open to all pupils in a ‘big bang’ on 8 March, Scotland’s return to classrooms will be staggered over the period to 5 April.
Asked why she was not laying out the full process of lifting restrictions today, Ms Sturgeon said: “I would love to stand here and say that by 21 June, we’ll all be back to normal completely.
“I can’t say that with any certainty at all, because I don’t know what the grounding for that is, I don’t know what assessment gives confidence on that. “I think we’ve got to continue to treat people like grown-ups on this.—AP