Scotland to move back to tiers from the end of April
However, Sturgeon emphasised a ‘data not dates’ approach and said that any dates given were provisional and reliant on cases and infection rates continuing to drop.
Scotland has been in national lockdown since 4 January.
Sturgeon said the immediate priority will continue to be the phased return of education.
Pre-school and groups P1 to P3 returned to classrooms on Monday this week, alongside limited senior pupils undertaking practical work vital for qualifications that can’t be done at home.
The second phase is set to take place no earlier than 15 March, with P4 to P7 pupils expected to return as well as more senior phase pupils in secondary schools.
The same date will see the limit on outdoor mixing between households increasing to four people from a maximum of two households.
Restrictions on care home visiting will also be eased from early March.
There is likely to be a gap of at least three weeks between each easing of restrictions to assess the impact of changes, and to check that it is safe to proceed further using the six conditions for safe easing set out by the World Health Organisation.
The ‘stay at home’ restriction could be lifted on 5 April at the earliest, with communal worship with restricted numbers set to be allowed from this date. If all goes to plan at least six people from two households would be able to meet outside.
This phase would also see the beginning of the re-opening of retail, starting with an extension of the definition of ‘essential retail’ and the removal of restrictions on click-and collect.
More re-opening will hopefully follow on 26 April with non-essential retail, hospitality and services like gyms and hairdressers allowed to open.
Moving back to the variable levels system at this point will be contingent on Scotland having vaccinated all JCVI priority groups one to nine which should be done by mid-April.
Sturgeon said: “I know how hard current restrictions are after 11 long months of this pandemic, however they are working and we can now see our way out of them. We are in a far better position now than at the start of January and these measures are initial steps on a slow, but hopefully steady, route back to much greater normality.
“Our intent remains to suppress the virus to the lowest possible level and keep it there, while we strive to return to a more normal life for as many people as possible.
“At the moment, and for a bit longer, we need to rely very heavily on restrictions to suppress the virus. This is essential when the virus is so transmissible, and when case numbers are still quite high.
“In time though – once the vast majority of the adult population has received at least one dose of the vaccine – we hope that vaccination will become our main tool for suppressing the virus.”
The Scottish government intends to publish a further document in mid-March giving more detail on the sequencing of re-opening the economy from late April onwards.
Earlier this week prime minister Boris Johnson laid out plans for the easing of lockdown restrictions in England, with schools going back on 8 March and restrictions on outdoor gatherings eased from 29 March.