Nicola Sturgeon set to unveil faster lockdown easing in Scotland TODAY

Nicola Sturgeon is set to unveil faster lockdown easing in Scotland TODAY with more mixing allowed outdoors amid tumbling Covid cases – as Boris Johnson rejects calls to step up the pace in England

  • Nicola Sturgeon is expected to speed up the easing of lockdown in Scotland 
  • First Minister could allow more mixing outdoors in statement to Holyrood later
  • Boris Johnson is under pressure to accelerate lifting of restrictions in England 

Nicola Sturgeon is set to speed up Scotland lockdown exit plan today as Boris Johnson fends off calls to step up the pace in England.

The Scottish First Minister is expected to bring forward the timetable for allowing households to socialise outdoors after hailing a more ‘optimistic’ picture.

The statement to Holyrood this afternoon will heap pressure on the PM to step up his own relaxation – although it is already more ambitious than Scotland’s. 

Ms Sturgeon has previously branded his June 21 date for restrictions to be lifted altogether ‘made up’.

Currently only two people from different households are allowed to socialise outdoors in Scotland.

That was due to increase to four people from March 15, but is now likely to be brought forward by Ms Sturgeon. She could also confirm when schools will be completely up and running again.

Two households should be allowed to mix outdoors in England from March 29, and schools returned in full from yesterday. 

Nicola Sturgeon is set to speed up Scotland lockdown exit plan today as Boris Johnson fends off calls to step up the pace in England

Cases have been falling in Scotland as the lockdown and vaccine rollout takes effect

On Friday Ms Sturgeon indicated ‘good progress’ with the vaccination programme and the falling number of infections could mean that ‘greater normality is firmly on the horizon’.

She said then she was ‘hopeful’ the Scottish Government may be able to make some ‘relatively minor, but I think important, changes in our ability to meet outdoors and also how young people are able to interact with their friends outdoors’.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney confirmed yesterday that Ms Sturgeon is considering changes – with tweaks being signed off by her ministers this morning.

He added: ‘The First Minister has been clear that we will try to relax lockdown as quickly as we possibly can do, but we have to do it in a sustainable manner.

‘That means taking the appropriate steps in the appropriate sequence to make sure we don’t run the risk of the virus running away from us again.’

The easing of Scottish lockdown restrictions began in February when children in the first three years of primary, as well as nursery youngsters, were able to return to the classroom.

Older primary children have been expected to return to school full time from next Monday, March 15 – with secondary school pupils also to get some time back in the classroom from this date, before returning full-time after the Easter holiday.

Last night Mr Johnson dismissed Tory calls to end lockdown sooner as Britain recorded fewer coronavirus cases than at any time since late September with 4,712 more positive tests.

The 65 more deaths caused by Covid-19 was the lowest number since October 12, and marked a drop of 38 per cent since last Monday. Cases fell by 14 per cent in a week.

Mr Johnson yesterday hailed a ‘big and emotional day’ as schools reopened, one-on-one social meeting were allowed outdoors, and indoor care home visits were permitted in England.

But the Covid Recovery Group of Tory MPs said it would look ‘odd’ if the country is still in lockdown next month if cases and deaths keep heading downwards. 

Boris Johnson held a press conference today to hail the ‘first step on the roadmap’ as schools across England reopened, indoor care home visits were brought back and people allowed to socialise outdoors in pairs

Dr Jenny Harries, Public Health England’s deputy chief medical officer, told a Downing Street press conference that the data show a ‘pleasing picture’. 

But she warned said infection rates across the UK were now back to where they were in September but warned: ‘This is the level at which a new wave could easily take off again from.’

Dr Harries said there is ‘still a substantial strain on the NHS, and not one we can afford to rise from again’.

Mr Johnson said he was embracing a ‘big budget of riskby reopening schools, admitting it was inevitable that letting children back into classrooms would cause cases to rise, and refused to budge on his ‘cautious but irreversible’ road map. 

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