Scotland’s stay-at-home order will be lifted on 2 April, with a phased reopening of non-essential retail beginning three days later.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon made the announcement in a COVID-19 statement to the Scottish Parliament, outlining dates for easing the country’s restrictions.
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While she said this was the “most hopeful I have felt about the situation for a long time”, the first minister cautioned against being complacent.
“I know this is the bit none of us want to hear, but the route back to normality does depend on continued suppression,” she said.
The next step in easing restrictions will see the stay-at-home order replaced with guidance to “stay local” – which Ms Sturgeon said she hoped would be in place for no more than three weeks.
The reopening of non-essential retail on 5 April will include barbers and salons, she told MSPs.
Click-and-collect retail services, garden centres, car dealerships and homeware stores will also reopen.
More students will be able to return to face-to-face learning, particularly those in college, with those at risk of not finishing their courses the priority.
The first minister said Scotland would come out of lockdown and into a “modified Level 3” on 26 April.
She said the country’s coronavirus vaccine programme will have reached those most at risk of dying from the virus by then, which will “give us the confidence to ease restrictions much more significantly”.
“The precise detail of any continued restrictions will depend on an assessment of the situation closer to the time,” Ms Sturgeon said.
“However, we will be aiming for as much normality as possible.”
The first minister said the easing of restrictions at this time would need to be monitored, although indoor hospitality venues will be able to serve alcohol.
Travel restrictions across the country will also be dropped on 26 April.
“We hope that restrictions on journeys between Scotland and other parts of the UK and the wider common travel area can also be lifted, if not on April 26, then as soon as possible thereafter,” Ms Sturgeon said.
Indoor socialising is expected to be allowed from 17 May, with four people from two households permitted to gather, while the rules around outdoor mixing will be eased further.
The plan is for Scotland to move from Level 3 to Level 2 on this date, before dropping to Level 1 at the start of June.
By the end of that month, the aim is to move to Level 0, although the first minister said she could not say when COVID restrictions would be scrapped entirely.
“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,” Ms Sturgeon said.
“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.
“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 this summer.”
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