The first minister’s plan to exit lockdown has been criticised as “falling short of public expectations” and lacking clarity beyond the end of April.
Scottish Conservative Holyrood leader Ruth Davidson claimed the Scottish Government’s framework “isn’t a road map out of Covid, it is a holding document for the next eight weeks”.
She added the public had been “expecting some hope” in the first minister’s update.
Scotland’s stay-at-home order is expected to be lifted from April 5 under a phased plan to lift lockdown, with the mainland returning to level three from April 26, “if all goes according to plan”.
‘Hope and expectation’
The first minister said she is “hopeful” the islands, currently under level three restrictions, will also be able to move down a level from this date.
Ms Sturgeon said “taking the brakes off too quickly will allow the virus to get ahead of us again and put our progress out of lockdown into reverse”.
She added that she hoped to give “as much clarity as possible” but wanted to avoid “giving false assurance or picking arbitrary dates that have no grounding at this stage in any objective assessment”.
Communal worship, a further extension to outdoor mixing and more freedoms in retail are hoped to be put in place from April 5, with Ms Sturgeon saying her “hope and expectation” is the stay-at-home order will be lifted then and all pupils will be back at school.
Non-essential retail, hospitality and services likes gyms and hairdressers will not reopen until late April.
‘This isn’t a route map out of Covid’
However, Ms Davidson said the first minister’s route map “fell short of public expectations”, criticising the first minister’s plan for lacking clarity.
She added: “We didn’t get information about when measures like social distancing will end and when we will be able to do something as basic as give a loved one a hug.
“Everyone understands that we might not be able to give people absolute certainty – but they were at least expecting the first minister to give them some kind of hope.
“Nothing has been published about what happens after April 26.
“This isn’t a route map out of Covid-19, it is a holding document.”
What is the ‘ultimate goal’?
Scottish Labour interim leader Jackie Baillie said the route map lacks clarity on its “ultimate goal”, criticising the absence of test and trace strategies in the exit plan and lack of certainty over what people can expect in the coming months.
She told the first minister it is “important people understand what lies ahead”.
Ms Baillie added: “Is it suppression of the virus, using testing, tracing and vaccination but accepting that there is some risk, as we do with flu each year, or is it elimination with zero Covid and the prospect of continuing restrictions over a longer period – including further lockdown?”
In response, Ms Sturgeon said a revised testing strategy will be published as the country comes out of lockdown.
On vaccines, she said the “biggest unanswered question” is exactly what impact the vaccines has on people catching and spreading the virus.
The first minister stressed that while evidence is “really positive”, more data are needed to give “confidence on reducing transmission”.
She added: “Our goal is to get back to normal life. Our goal is to hug our loved ones.
“Our goal is to be able to go about the way we all want to do.”
North-east MSP Liam Kerr said several questions “still remain unanswered” including on when life events such as weddings can be held as normal or when social distancing will end.
He also called for the return to the tiered system of restrictions to reflect infection levels in the city.
Mr Kerr said: “Over the last seven days, Aberdeen has had the lowest number of cases per 100,000 population in mainland Scotland.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie welcomed the more gradual approach taken by the first minister, claiming there is “broad consensus in the country on the caution required”.
He added: “The measures today are broadly similar to those early measures announced by Boris Johnson on Monday with an earlier, if phased, easing on schools and two-person outdoor limit and a slightly later easing on shops.”
All adults to be offered first jag by end of July
There was a total of 655 positive cases recorded across Scotland in the last 24 hours, representing 4.8% of all tests carried out.
A total of 1,076 people are in hospital, 65 fewer than Monday, and 93 people are in intensive care, six fewer than the previous day.
A total of 56 deaths was recorded in the last 24 hours, taking the total to 7,006 under the Scottish Government’s daily measurement.
Meanwhile, a total of 1,465,241 people have received their first dose of the vaccine, up 19,753 since Monday, meaning almost a third of the adult population of Scotland have been vaccinated.
Ms Sturgeon revealed the Scottish Government plans to offer first doses of the vaccine to all adults by the end of July, supplies permitting.
The first minister said 82% of those in the 65 to 69 age group have had their first jag and, as of this week, first doses of the vaccine are being provided to unpaid carers and adults with underlying health conditions.