20:41 GMT05 March 2021
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    First Minister Nicola Sturgeon addressed the Scottish parliament last week to say that while the national lockdown would continue until the beginning of March "at least", children would start to gradually return to school amid a reduction in coronavirus cases and hospitalisations.

    First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is to unveil in the Scottish Parliament the details of her strategy for taking that part of the United Kingdom out of COVID-19 lockdown, vowing that restrictions will be eased 'carefully and gradually'.

    "The framework will detail how the Scottish Government will use and balance all the tools at our disposal – restrictions and advice, vaccination, test and protect, travel restrictions and support for businesses, organisations and individuals – to restore, on a phased and sustainable basis, greater normality to everyday lives across Scotland,” the Scottish Government announced on Tuesday, according to GlasgowLive.

    It was added that the priority will continue to be “suppression of the virus to the lowest possible level”.

    ​As she makes her announcement shortly after Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressed Parliament on Monday to detail the impending phased lifting of the coronavirus lockdown in the UK, the leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) emphasised at Monday's government coronavirus briefing that Scotland's path out of lockdown will be 'broadly similar' to that of the British government, yet not identical.

    While England will not be re-embracing the previously introduced tiered system, Scotland intends to resort to a system of geographical lockdown alerts amid the easing of restrictions.

    On Monday, Sturgeon hailed “exceptionally encouraging news”, at a media briefing in St Andrew's House, Edinburgh, pointing to data showing that the vaccination programme was instrumental in impacting coronavirus-related hospital admissions.

    An analysis of the Pfizer and Oxford-AstraZeneca jabs by Public Health Scotland showed that by the fourth week after receiving the initial dose, both vaccines slashed the risk of hospitalisation by up to 85 per cent and 94 per cent respectively.

    ​With “1.14 million vaccines now administered and 21 percent of the Scottish population having received a first dose”, Sturgeon said:

    “We know we cannot continue in lockdown indefinitely and we must plan a gradual phased return to as much normality as possible.”

    The plan is anticipated to prioritise returning children to classrooms, along with reopened sports activities for young people and limited social interaction allowed for adults.

    “A limited number of children and young people were able to return to school yesterday and we have prioritised this because children's education and wellbeing is such an overriding priority. Of course, this has only been possible because people across Scotland have worked together and made sacrifices to bring down levels of Covid-19,” said Sturgeon.

    ‘Geographically Variable System’

    The First Minister emphasized that new guidance had been published to enable an easing of restrictions on care home visiting from early March.

    ​“Beyond that, giving people the ability to meet loved ones, initially outdoors, is a priority for easing restrictions within the current level 4,” she said.

    According to the plan, there will be a series of proposed phases, intercepted by periods of at least three weeks, to ease current Level 4 restrictions and then return to the geographic levels system.

    “We will be able to give more detail and clarity in the weeks ahead as we make further progress both on suppressing the virus and vaccinating the population... However, to keep moving in the right direction and avoid setbacks caution will be necessary,” said Nicola Sturgeon.

    Originally, the coronavirus alert levels system in Scotland was split into five tiers, ranging from Level 0 to Level 4. The designations hinged on coronavirus case numbers and rate of transmission.

    Near-lockdown restrictions were set in place, with non-essential shops closed while six people from two households could meet outdoors, in areas in Level 4.

    Level 0 areas witnessed a routine closest to pre-pandemic, with people allowed to meet indoors with eight people from three households and businesses able to stay open with safety measures in place.

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