SCOTLAND’S stay-at-home order is expected to be lifted from April 5 under a phased plan to ease lockdown, Nicola Sturgeon announced, saying there are “brighter times ahead”.

She told the Scottish Parliament yesterday that “if all goes according to plan” the country will move back to the levels system of coronavirus restrictions from April 26, with all council areas moving to level 3.

This will allow a “phased but significant re-opening of the economy, including non-essential retail, hospitality and services like gyms and hairdressers”, the First Minister said. Unveiling the revised road map out of lockdown, Sturgeon told MSPs lockdown would ease in phases, separated by at least three weeks and contingent on suppression of the virus continuing.

The partial return of pupils to schools which took place on Monday was the first phase, she said, with the second set to take place no earlier than March 15.

Restrictions on care home visiting are set to be eased from early March.

READ: Nicola Sturgeon's speech on easing lockdown in full

The Scottish Government’s current plan is as follows:

From March 15:

  • Four people from two households can meet up outside 
  • The current limit is two people from two households
  • All primary school children will go back to class, with those in primaries four to seven joining their younger classmates who returned on Monday
  • More senior secondary pupils will also return
  • Children aged 12 – 17 can take part in outdoor non-contact group sports

From April 5:

  • The stay at home order will be lifted
  • All pupils should be back in school
  • Some retail will begin to return, with the definition of essential retail extended and restrictions on click-and-collect services removed
  • Six people from two households can meet together outdoors
  • Churches, mosques, synagogues and other places of worship can re-open. The exact return date for communal worship will take into account the timing of major religious festivals, with Easter and Passover falling on April 4

From April 26:

  • Scotland will move back to its five tiers of coronavirus restrictions, with level 0 the least restrictive and level 4 the most
  • Currently, most areas are in level 4 – “hopefully all of Scotland” will move to level 3 “albeit with some possible modifications”
  • Non-essential retail, hospitality, and gyms and hairdressers can re-open, though under current rules in level 3, alcohol cannot be served in pubs

The First Minister said she hopes to be able to give more detail in mid-March on the easing of restrictions.

While she said she hoped to give “as much clarity as possible” when she announced the new approach yesterday, 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 re-open – is a reasonable one.

“In mid-March – when we have made further progress on vaccines and have greater understanding of the impact of the initial phase of school return – I hope we can set out then more detail of the further re-opening that will take place over April and May and into a summer when we hope to be living with much greater freedoms than we are today.

“The restrictions are working. The vaccination programme is motoring and we can now see a firm way out of this. So if we all stick together and stick with it, we are now able to say with confidence we are looking at much brighter times ahead.”

Travel restrictions in Scotland will remain for “some time yet”, the First Minister said, as she stressed it is important that cases of the virus, particularly of new variants of the virus, were not imported into the country. She said: “Travel restrictions are also essential and are likely to remain so for some time yet. 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.”

Meanwhile, another 56 people were reported yesterday to have died after contracting Covid-19. A further 655 people also tested positive in the 24 hours previous to the announcement, with a positivity rate of 4.8%.

READ MORE: Another 56 people die in Scotland after contracting Covid-19

The deaths, recorded amongst patients who had tested positive in the previous 28 days, brings the total under that measurement to 7006.

Some 1076 people were in hospital, a decrease of 65. Of those, 93 were in intensive care, a decrease of six. A total of 1,465,241 people had had the first dose of a vaccine, up by 19,753 in 24 hours, while 43,203 had received their second dose.