Nicola Sturgeon urged to follow Boris Johnson's lead and accelerate reopening
Nicola Sturgeon has been urged to accelerate Scotland’s exit from the lockdown.
Yesterday saw the reopening of hairdressers, homeware shops, and garden centres reopen, and the resumption of some non-essential retail click and collect services.
Under the current framework the next easing of restrictions is on April 26.
However, Boris Johnson last night confirmed that all pubs, shops, and gyms in England will be able to reopen next Monday.
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross with more than 2.5 million people in Scotland now vaccinated, the Scottish Government should be looking to get back to normal “a bit faster” than planned.
Sturgeon – who is due to give her regular update on the state of the pandemic this afternoon – has previously suggested she could “accelerate” Scotland’s exit from lockdown if there was progress in suppressing the virus.
"I have always said if we can go further and faster, then we will not hesitate to do so,” she told MSPs at the start of March.
The latest statistics from the government recorded 248 new cases and no deaths in the previous 24 hours.
Test positivity had fallen to 2.5 per cent, down from 2.7 per cent on Sunday.
Ross said it was time for the government to be more “hopeful”.
He said: “The vaccine scheme has been a tremendous Scottish and UK success story.
“It’s shown once again that we are better off working together across the United Kingdom.
“But more than that, it’s opened up the possibility of getting the country back to normal a bit faster than we might have imagined possible only a few months ago.
“While we can’t lose focus on the health crisis or the looming jobs crisis, the public health data is now much more encouraging.
“We must continue to be cautious but we can now start to look forward to easing restrictions more optimistically.
“Nicola Sturgeon must outline a more hopeful plan in her BBC briefing today.”
Responding to Ross, Mairi Gougeon, the SNP's Minister for Public Health and candidate for Angus North & Mearns, said:"The success of the vaccine rollout is down to the heroic efforts of our NHS staff, Armed Forces and volunteers - with NHS Scotland's programme vaccinating more than 2.5 million people so far.
"The SNP Scottish Government has throughout this pandemic followed the public health and scientific advice to ensure we do all that we can to protect people's lives.
"And it is down to the brilliant and collective effort of people across Scotland abiding by the rules during these extremely difficult times that we are in a position to ease restrictions. No one should diminish the efforts of people across Scotland.
"With the light at the end of the tunnel getting brighter, an SNP Government will continue - as it has done over the past year - to focus on tackling the pandemic to keep Scotland safe.
"The issue at this election is who do we trust to secure a fair recovery for Scotland - people in Scotland or Boris Johnson? Only both votes SNP on May 6th can put Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands - not Boris Johnson’s.”
At a Downing Street briefing, Johnson confirmed that he would proceed to the next phase of his roadmap out of lockdown from 12 April.
That means shops, pubs and restaurants can reopen for the first time in more than three months
People will also be able to travel around England and stay in self-catering accommodation.
Johnson said he himself would be marking the occasion by “going to the pub” and “cautiously, but irreversibly, raising a pint of beer”.
It also looks increasingly likely that COVID status certificates will become commonplace in the next few months – despite fierce political opposition.
Documents released by the UK government last night said the vaccine passports “could have an important role to play both domestically and internationally, as a temporary measure”.
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said the Scottish Government was also considering a similar scheme.
She told the BBC: “We’re currently looking at what would be the digital infrastructure you would need for any form of certification, as we work through those ethical and equality and practical questions about how it might be used and in what circumstances.”