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Scotland's shops and hairdressers could open at end of April, Nicola Sturgeon says
23 February 2021, 14:29 | Updated: 23 February 2021, 15:28
Nicola Sturgeon has said shops and other businesses in Scotland may be able to open at the end of April, as she set out her vision on how to relax Covid restrictions.
Unveiling the revised road map out of lockdown in the Scottish Parliament, the First Minister said it was important that cases of the virus, particularly new variants, were not imported into the country.
The First Minister said she wanted to find a "firm and sustainable route" out of restrictions, and hopes to remove the stay at home order on April 5.
She said: "We saw over the summer how new cases were imported into Scotland, after the virus had almost been eliminated. We do not want that to happen again.
"In particular we do not want to import new variants of the virus, which could be more resistant to the vaccines that we are currently using.
"And so the strategic framework rightly emphasises the importance of both travel restrictions and test and protect. They will help us to ease restrictions safely."
Scotland will return to a regional level system from the last week in April if virus suppression continues, she added.
Ms Sturgeon told MSPs the five-level system, separated by council areas, will return and she hopes those in Level 4 will be able to drop down to Level 3, which would see sectors such as non-essential retail reopen.
She said: "It is therefore from the last week of April that we would expect to see phased but significant reopening of the economy, including non-essential retail, hospitality and services like gyms and hairdressers.
"And, of course, the more of us who are vaccinated and the more we all stick by the rules now, the faster that safe pace is likely to be - if we all stay in this together, our progress will be greater."
The partial return of pupils to schools which took place on Monday was the first phase of the return, she said, with the second set to take place no earlier than March 15.
This is expected to involve P4-P7 pupils returning as well as older pupils in secondary schools, along with an increase in outdoor mixing to four people from two households.
Communal worship, a further extension to outdoor mixing, and more freedoms in retail, are then hoped to be put in place from April 5.
Ms Sturgeon added she wanted to avoid "giving false assurance or picking arbitrary dates that have no grounding at this stage in any objective assessment".
She continued: "I am as confident as I can be that the indicative, staged timetable that I have set out today - from now until late April when the economy will start to substantially reopen - is a reasonable one.