LISTEN: John Swinney explains how the lock down measures are planned to change in the coming months
The First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has announced the gradual steps Scotland will be taking in the coming months to ease out of lockdown.
These steps include reintroducing children back into school, opening religious worship, lowering lockdown restrictions down to level 3 across the country and opening the doors of non-essential business in the country.
Perthshire North MSP and Deputy First Minister, John Swinney, said: “It’s a really welcome moment in acknowledging the in acknowledging the progress we’ve made in suppressing the virus, and in rolling out the vaccination programme.
“We’ve set out different stages that we’ll go through over the course of March and April to get to the point where by the end of April we hope to be able to open up a whole range of different sectors of our economy.
“With more progress made in reopening our schools over the next few weeks, and more progress in opening up care homes for visiting and opening up places of worship.”
The first step in existing the lockdown in Scotland saw early learning schoolchildren return to school on February 22.
Then the following milestone is set for March 15, which aims to see all primary school children return to the classroom, reintroduce blended learning for secondary school pupils and allow small groups of people to meet outside.
April 5 will then see the ‘stay at home’ restriction lifted, religious worship allowed, and larger groups allowed to meet outdoors.
By April 26, Scotland will resume the level system with all areas restricted to at least level 3, which will see the return of non-essential retail, pubs and restaurants, as well as leisure activities like gyms.
However, the continued restrictions mean many more days without further trade for local businesses, especially Highland Perthshire’s specialist hospitality sector.
Now these businesses are calling on the government to offer more support while they’re activity is restricted.
Chief Executive of the Perthshire Chamber of Commerce, Vicki Unite, explained: “The health of the nation is paramount, and we support the efforts of everyone working towards getting the virus under control.
“Many of our members are frustrated that they can’t restart their business from an earlier date and they will feel that contingency measures, a great deal of which are ready to be put in place and created with safety in mind, don’t seem to have been taken into account.
“It is particularly hard on hospitality, retail and the personal service sector and we hope that these and other areas which are really struggling will receive enhanced financial support.”
For the time being, the restrictions remain in place and the government says that this will remain the case until the vaccine roll-out reaches a greater percentage of the population.
Announcing the plans to reduce restrictions overtime, Nicola Sturgeon said: “Our intent remains to suppress the virus to the lowest possible level and keep it there, while we strive to return to a more normal life for as many people as possible.
“At the moment, and for a bit longer, we need to rely very heavily on restrictions to suppress the virus. This is essential when the virus is so transmissible, and when case numbers are still quite high.
“In time though – once the vast majority of the adult population has received at least one dose of the vaccine – we hope that vaccination will become our main tool for suppressing the virus.”
Between now and then, the government is also stressing that it is important to stick to the rules, even if people have had the vaccine.
Mr Swinney added: “In the interim, I would encourage members of the public to stick with the measures that are in place, follow to the rules and make sure that we all do all that we can to protect our community and to look after eachother.”