COVID-19: Scotland and Northern Ireland reveal when their stay-at-home orders will end

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Scotland’s stay-at-home order will be lifted on 2 April and replaced with a “stay local” message, with Northern Ireland set to follow 10 days later.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon made the announcement in a COVID-19 statement to the Scottish Parliament, outlining dates for easing the country’s restrictions.

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In Northern Ireland, First Minister Arlene Foster confirmed that the Stormont Executive had agreed “several measured relaxations” to the rules.

This includes the stay-at-home requirement lifting on 12 April and being replaced with a “stay local” message like in Scotland.

Mrs Foster said the outlook was “cautious but optimistic”.

This was echoed by Ms Sturgeon, who said that while this was the “most hopeful I have felt about the situation for a long time”, she cautioned against being complacent.

“I know this is the bit none of us want to hear, but the route back to normality does depend on continued suppression,” she said.

The next step in easing restrictions will see the stay-at-home order replaced with guidance to “stay local” – which Ms Sturgeon said she hoped would be in place for no more than three weeks.

The reopening of non-essential retail on 5 April will include barbers and salons, she told MSPs.

Click-and-collect retail services, garden centres, car dealerships and homeware stores will also reopen.

More students will be able to return to face-to-face learning, particularly those in college, with those at risk of not finishing their courses the priority.

The first minister said Scotland would come out of lockdown and into a “modified Level 3” on 26 April.

Travel restrictions across the country will also be dropped on 26 April.

“We hope that restrictions on journeys between Scotland and other parts of the UK and the wider common travel area can also be lifted, if not on April 26, then as soon as possible thereafter,” Ms Sturgeon said.

She said the country’s coronavirus vaccine programme will have reached those most at risk of dying from the virus by then, which will “give us the confidence to ease restrictions much more significantly”.

“The precise detail of any continued restrictions will depend on an assessment of the situation closer to the time,” Ms Sturgeon said.

“However, we will be aiming for as much normality as possible.”

Non-essential shops, libraries, museums, galleries and gyms will be able to reopen on 26 April, with six people from up to three households permitted to meet outside.

Cafes, restaurants and bars will be able to serve people outdoors, in groups of up to six from three different households, until 10pm.

Alcohol will be allowed and there will be no requirement for food to be served.

Hospitality venues can reopen on that date until 8pm, but only for food and non-alcoholic drinks.

However, pubs will not be able to reopen indoors until 17 May.

Indoor socialising is expected to be allowed from this date, with four people from two households permitted to gather, while the rules around outdoor mixing will be eased further.

Cinemas, amusement arcades and bingo halls will be able to reopen, while outdoor contact sport for adults is also set to return.

The plan is for Scotland to move from Level 3 to Level 2 on this date, before dropping to Level 1 at the start of June.

By the end of that month, the aim is to move to Level 0, although the first minister said she could not say when COVID restrictions would be scrapped entirely.

“For me to set a precise date for all of that right now would involve plucking it out of thin air – and I’d be doing it to make my life easier, not yours,” Ms Sturgeon said.

“I am not going to do that. But I do believe that over the coming weeks – as more and more adults are vaccinated – it will be possible to set a firmer date by which many of these normal things will be possible.

“I am optimistic that this date will be over the summer.

“I know I will not be the only one now looking forward – with a real sense of hope – to hugging my family this summer.”

(c) Sky News 2021: COVID-19: Scotland and Northern Ireland reveal when their stay-at-home orders will end

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