Scotland’s lockdown extended until middle of February

Schools and non-essential shops will remain closed, but First Minister says there are 'grounds for optimism'.

Current lockdown restrictions are to be extended until at least the middle of February.

The whole of mainland Scotland will remain under almost a full lockdown with schools, non-essential shops, gyms, salons and most hospitality venues closed.

However, the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the latest statistics showed “signs for optimism”, while vaccines continue to be rolled out.

The current lockdown restrictions began early in January, with the ‘stay at home’ message now in law.

Pupils have been learning at home since the school Christmas holidays ended and had previously been due to return to classrooms on February 1.

However, Sturgeon said: “The cabinet decided today that – except for vulnerable and key worker children – school and nursery premises will remain closed until mid-February.”

The situation will be reviewed on February 2, the First Minister said, adding: “If it is at all possible, as I very much hope it will be, to begin even a phased return to in-school learning in mid-February, we will.”

Another 71 coronavirus-related deaths have been registered in the past 24 hours, while 1165 new cases were detected. A total of 1989 patients are currently being treated in hospital.

Sturgeon said Scots must be continue to be “cautious” about coronavirus, despite declines in the number of new cases.

“We need to see these trends continue, to be more certain that this phase of the epidemic is now on a downward trajectory,” she said.

“And second, we need to be realistic that any improvement we are seeing is down, at this stage, to the fact that we are staying at home and reducing our interactions.

“Any relaxation of lockdown while case numbers, even though they might be declining, nevertheless remain very high, could quickly send the situation into reverse.”

The First Minister also told MSPs that Barra and Vatersay in the Western Isles will move from Level 3 of restrictions to Level 4 – the highest tier – at midnight on Tuesday.

This is due to a “significant outbreak” of Covid on the island.

Giving an update on vaccination numbers, Ms Sturgeon said that, assuming vaccine supplies meet expectations, Scotland will be “on track to be vaccinating 400,000 people a week by the end of February”.

She said more than 90% of care home residents, 70% of care home staff and 70% of all frontline health and care workers have received their first dose of a vaccine.

“That means that in around three months’ time, around three million people in total will have received at least the first dose of the vaccine,” she said.

“This is, of course, the majority of the adult population and includes everyone over the age of 50, and many younger people with an underlying health condition.”

Scotland’s largest teaching union said it supported the decision to keep schools closed.

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said: “While the EIS wants to see schools fully operational as soon as possible, this can only be achieved when it is safe for all students and staff to return, which means full consideration of the evidence on the new variant and its transmissibility amongst young people.”

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