Nicola Sturgeon hopes 'all of Scotland' will see 'substantial easing' of lockdown restrictions by end of next month

Nicola Sturgeon has said she hopes all parts of Scotland can see a "substantial" easing of lockdown when the country returns to the levels system at the end of next month.

Wednesday, 10th March 2021, 3:50 pm

The First Minister said while she wanted to adopt a national approach initially, those areas with lower rates on infection could hopefully "go faster".

The First Minister has already announced the intention for Scotland to return to its levels system, with different tiers of restrictions applying in different areas, from April 26.

But with the current lockdown, combined with the vaccination programme, resulting in falling case numbers, she was pressed on whether the easing of restrictions could go faster.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The Royal Mile in Edinburgh, the morning after stricter lockdown measures came into force for mainland Scotland in January. Picture: PA

The First Minister told MSPs on Holyrood's Covid-19 Committee that Scotland had recorded 691 further coronavirus cases - 3.1 per cent of all new tests carried out - and 20 more deaths in the past 24 hours.

She added that by 8.30am on Wednesday a total of 1,809,158 Scots had received their first dose of the vaccine - some 40 per cent of the adult population.

But when asked about her plans for not returning to the levels system until April 26, Ms Sturgeon said coronavirus was still "circulating at levels that are too high for comfort".

She added that the strain of the virus that is dominant in Scotland is "much more infectious" than infections last year.

The First Minister continued: "We know from pretty hard experience in the final part of last year, and the first part of this year, that it spreads and transmits very quickly and we don't have experience yet as to how far and fast that will spread when we start to lift restrictions.

"And while we are making really good progress with the vaccine programme, in that 40 per cent of the adult population is now vaccinated, we need to get that percentage higher to have a degree of protection from the vaccine that will substitute [for] the protection from lockdown measures.

"So we are being, I think, rightly cautious to make sure as we start to lift these restrictions we have as much certainty as we will ever have in a situation like this that we are not immediately going to be overtaken by the spread of the virus."

Ms Sturgeon said she hoped that "as we come out of lockdown measures, initially we can come out as one country".

But she said the intention was then to use tougher restrictions under the levels system in areas where there are "flare-ups".

Ms Sturgeon stressed: "I hope that at least some substantial parts of the easing of lockdown can apply all across the country.

"It may very quickly for some parts to go faster, and I am talking more island and rural communities, in particular."

That came as she accepted there are "parts of the country where prevalence is much lower than it is in other parts of the country".

But she also said it was not yet know what impact the return of youngsters to school would have on transmission.