Nicola Sturgeon announces 'Stay At Home' will end on April 2 as routemap out of lockdown set out
Nicola Sturgeon has announced indicative dates for the easing of lockdown restrictions in Scotland with an end to the ‘Stay at Home’ rule on April 2 and hospitality set to start reopening from April 26.
The First Minister said all school children were likely to be back in full-time education following the Easter break, most likely from April 12.
She also said hairdressers and barbers will open on April 5, as well as setting dates for when the non-essential retail and hospitality can reopen.
The end of the ‘stay at home’ message will see the order replaced by guidance to stay local, with no plans to increase the number of people able to meet at that stage.
Target dates have also been set for when people will be able to travel to other parts of Scotland, get back to the gym, or have friends and family members round to visit.
It is nearly six months since indoor visits between households in Scotland were banned by the Scottish Government, with the only exceptions extended to extended households, childcare, tradespeople and couples who do not live together.
But it will not be until May 17 until indoor gatherings, with a maximum of four people from two households, are possible, the First Minister confirmed.
In early June it is planned the rule of six will return, with six people from up to three households able to socialise indoors, with eight people from three households also allowed to meet outdoors.
Restrictions on international travel are likely to be in place until at least May 17, with the requirement for pre and post-departure testing likely to be required for the near future.
Non-essential retail will return in a phased manner from April 5, with the same date likely to see garden centres reopen.
More students will also return to campuses on April 5.
April 26 will see restrictions on journeys within mainland Scotland lifted entirely, with restrictions on travel between Scotland and other parts of the UK and the common travel area to be lifted on April 26 or very shortly after.
That date will also see all remaining retail premises to re-open, with tourist accommodation – subject to wider restrictions on hospitality – also opening on that date.
Addressing MSPs, Ms Sturgeon said: “It is our fervent hope – and also our tentatively increasing expectation – that vaccination, continued and effective use of the Test and Protect system, and probably a continued compliance with precautions like good hand hygiene, will allow us to keep Covid under much greater control
"And that this will allow us to enjoy many of the things that we took for granted before the pandemic – for example, normal family gatherings where we can hug our loved ones, sporting events, gigs and nightclubs.
"For me to set a precise date for all of that right now would involve plucking it out of thin air – and I’d be doing it to make my life easier, not yours.
“I am not going to do that. But I do believe that over the coming weeks – as more and more adults are vaccinated – it will be possible to set a firmer date by which many of these normal things will be possible and I am optimistic that this date will be over the summer.
“I know I will not be the only one now looking forward – with a real sense of hope – to hugging my family the course of this summer.”
Libraries, museums and galleries will also reopen from April 26 along with indoor gyms and the resumption of work in people’s homes and driving lessons.
Hospitality will reopen with cafes, pubs, and restaurants able to open until 8pm indoors and 10pm outdoors, with alcohol only permitted in outdoor venues.
This will change on May 17 when closing times will be changed to 10:30pm for indoor venues, with a maximum of two hours spent inside, but with the sale of alcohol allowed.
Opening hours will be extended to 11pm in early June.
Outdoor contact sport and indoor group exercise is also expected to restart on that date, with the reopening of cinemas, amusement arcades and bingo halls, with indoor non-contact sports returning in early June.
Small-scale outdoor and indoor events will also be allowed to restart though still subject to capacity constraints from May 17, with an increase in numbers in early June.
Office staff may be allowed to return from the end of June, the First Minister said, as mainland Scotland moves from level one to level zero restrictions based on the strategic framework abandoned in January in favour of a national lockdown.
The plan received a mixed reaction from the retail and hospitality sector.
Andrew McRae, the Federation of Small Businesses Scotland’s policy chair, said the indicative dates for non-essential retail allowed for “increased confidence”, but warned many businesses may not survive.
He said: “However, while we look to be winning the race against the virus, we still face a countdown to save our local businesses before their reserves of cash and resolve are exhausted.
“Half of all Scottish independent business owners say they're worried about their survival, and official figures show that local Scottish enterprises are laden with billions of pound of debt. The crisis is nowhere near finished for thousands of important local Scottish firms.”
The Scottish Licensed Trade Association (STLA) said the route map was a “bitter blow” for indoor hospitality and expressed surprise at the continued ban of alcohol sales indoors in the early stages of relaxation.
STLA managing director Colin Wilkinson said: “We welcome these indicative dates for reopening as they provide more clarity for businesses, but overall these slight lifting of restrictions don’t go far enough and, for the majority, reopening will remain unviable. We’re bitterly disappointed.
"If there is a positive to come out of today’s announcement, it is that we have something to work towards, but that doesn’t change the fact that for a very high percentage of business, reopening in April will simply be unviable.”
The Scottish Hospitality Group, which comprises several of Scotland’s biggest hospitality brands, said the route map offered “no hope” for drink-led pubs or nightclubs and called for more business support for this sector.
Stephen Montgomery, the group’s spokesperson said: “It’s impossible to get excited about this partial and gradual reopening, but at least we have some dates and a path towards normality.
“Hospitality played no part in the second wave and the government recently confirmed it had no evidence to justify the restrictions on the sector. Despite that, the government is persisting with two fundamental flaws in its approach to easing restrictions.
"The first is that alcohol is still taking the blame with no justification. The second is the that there’s no logic at all for the cut-off times.
"On both issues the industry has put forward practical, realistic and sensible proposals that balance economic and public health interests. We urge the government to review its stance on alcohol and the arbitrary curfews it is imposing.”