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.
The move represents a break from the roadmap out of lockdown unveiled on Monday by Boris Johnson, who has made clear he will ease restrictions across the whole of England, regardless of regional infection rates.
Ms Sturgeon also broke from Mr Johnson’s approach by telling the Scottish Parliament that she is ready to accelerate the introduction of restrictions after the end of April if evidence shows that it is safe.
The Scottish first minister said that her framework for leaving lockdown was “deliberately cautious at this stage”, but would be flexible to respond to data on falling infection and death rates.
She said that relaxations from 26 April will include the phased reopening of non-essential retail, pubs and restaurants, gyms and hairdressers.
In stark contrast to Mr Johnson, who said he hoped to return England to near-normality on 21 June, Ms Sturgeon said that any dates set beyond the end of April would be “arbitrary” at this stage.
Scotland has already moved independently from England by allowing the reopening of schools for all younger pupils from this week – two weeks before the return to classrooms south of the border.
And Ms Sturgeon told MSPs that it was not “fair or reasonable” to set target dates months into the future.
“I would love to stand here and say that by 21 June, we’ll all be back to normal completely,” she said.
“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.
“Much as I would like to go further out with dates, I don’t think it is fair or reasonable to do that right now, because we need to make sure that we have proper assessment and a proper basis for the confidence that the things we’re seeing might not be able to be guaranteed but have a reasonably good chance of being deliverable.
“That’s my level of confidence in what I set out today. By two or three weeks’ time I hope to have the same level of confidence when we look further into April and perhaps even beyond to May.
“But I think we’ve got to continue to treat people like grown-ups on this. People are fed up, we’re all fed up with this and we really want it to be over.
“But I think we all have developed an understanding that it can’t be magicked away. We’ve got to get there in the right way, and in a way that is going to prove to be sustainable.”