Pupils will start gradually returning to classrooms in Scotland from Monday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced.
Addressing the Scottish parliament on Tuesday, Sturgeon said that while the national lockdown will continue until the beginning of March "at least" and could continue "possibly for a further period beyond that," children will begin their return to school next week.
"We are choosing to use the very limited headroom we have right now to get at least some children back to school – because children's education and wellbeing is such a priority," the first minister said.
"But being able to get children back to education may mean the rest of us living with some other restrictions for longer."
She also claimed that the shutdown was working as there's been a reduction in cases and hospitalisations but warned that even a slight easing could see a spike in new infections.
Sturgeon cautioned against opening up too quickly to meet "arbitrary dates."
"Indeed, because of the new, more infectious variant, our exit from lockdown is likely to be even more cautious than it was last summer," she added.
— Haggis_UK 🇬🇧 🇪🇺 (@Haggis_UK) February 16, 2021
The Scottish National Party leader told MSPs that a "100 percent return to normality" is unlikely in the near future so the government will have to prioritise certain sectors when deciding what and where to open up. Sturgeon urged Scots not to book holidays abroad for the summer but said that "staycations" might be possible.
Opening schools, followed by normalising family contact, and subsequently, non-essential retail have been prioritised in that order.
She also lauded Scotland's vaccine programme as "outstanding," with 94 percent of people between the ages of 70 and 79 given the first dose, along with 58 percent in the next vulnerable group aged between 65 and 69.
"I want to thank everyone planning and delivering the programme and everyone who has come forward to be vaccinated," Sturgeon said.
This comes as Scotland surpasses England for vaccination rates with 22.98 percent of the country vaccinated with the first inoculation jab, compared with 22.85 percent south of the border.
— Travelling Tabby (@TravellingTabby) February 15, 2021
While Scotland has been placed in a full national lockdown, she told MSPs that the measures were working, with fewer COVID-19 patients in hospital and intensive care – but cautioned that "even a slight" easing of restrictions could see cases "start rising rapidly again."
Schools in Scotland are set to open two weeks before they do in England. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he hopes to see schools re-open by 8 March but will it's still not certain.