Steve Allen 4am - 7am
Lockdown in Scotland to continue until end of February
2 February 2021, 15:56
Lockdown will continue in Scotland until at least the end of February, Nicola Sturgeon has announced.
The Scottish Government previously said the toughest restrictions for Level 4 areas - mainland Scotland and some islands areas - would continue until the number of Covid-19 cases has fallen to a low enough level.
Ms Sturgeon said depending on progress "we may be able to look at a careful and gradual easing at around the start of March".
Schools in Scotland will return on a phased basis from February 22, however, subject to final confirmation in two weeks' time.
Speaking at the Scottish Parliament, the First Minister also announced plans to introduce a managed quarantine requirement for anyone who arrives directly into Scotland, regardless of which country they have come from.
She said: "If our progress continues, then I am cautiously optimistic that, as more and more people get vaccinated and with the protection of some of the additional measures that I will cover shortly, we may be able to begin looking towards a careful and gradual easing around the start of March."
Figures suggest Covid-19 prevalence in Scotland continues to fall, with new data dropping from 302 per 100,000 in the week ending January 8 to 136 last week.
"Test positivity has also reduced," Ms Sturgeon added, "in the seven days up to January 29 it averaged 6.6% - still higher, but closer than it has been in recent weeks, to the 5% that the WHO consider to be indicative of an outbreak being under control."
But she warned that pressure on the NHS continues to be "severe" and that Covid patients being treated in hospital remains around 30% higher than the peak of the first wave last April.
Cautionary data shows hospital admissions likely peaked in mid-January, with the number needing urgent care stabilising then reducing slowly since.
Ms Sturgeon also announced that all travellers coming to Scotland from any country are set to be asked to quarantine in a hotel.
The First Minister said a system of "managed quarantine" would be put in place for anyone arriving directly to Scotland.
It comes amid reports the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) warned the UK government weeks ago that only quarantine hotels for all arrivals or a total border shutdown would stop coronavirus variants entering the country.
She confirmed she could not impose the measures on people travelling into Scotland from the rest of the UK, but urged leaders in Westminster, Cardiff and Stormont to work with Holyrood to reduce the number of people moving between countries.
Meanwhile, pupils will begin returning to schools in Scotland from February 22.
Ms Sturgeon said that, subject to confirmation on February 16, all children under school age in early learning and childcare will return.
Pupils in Primary 1 to Primary 3 will also be allowed back into school, as will those in the senior phase of secondary school.
The Scottish Government will also ramp up testing in educational settings, with teachers and older pupils being tested twice a week - regardless of symptoms.
The criteria for the £500 self-isolation payment offered will also be widened.
Only a quarter of the applications for the grant in its first two months were accepted by local authorities, leading the Scottish Government to review its conditions.