Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed that some children will be able to return to school after February half term, but said lockdown restrictions will not be lifted until March at the earliest.
Pupils in Primary One to Primary Three will return to school full time, as will all children under school age in early learning and childcare from Feb 22.
A “limited number” of secondary school students can also return on a part-time basis to allow in-school practical work, necessary for the completion of national qualifications, from the same date. Additionally, there will be a “limited increase in provision for vulnerable children”, the First Minister said.
However, a second phased return for school pupils would not begin any earlier that mid-March.
Ms Sturgeon also announced that she hopes to produce a new road map out of lockdown in week beginning Feb 22, as she warned that returning to “100% normality” would not be possible in the near future.
The First Minister said “even a slight easing of restrictions could cause cases to start rising rapidly again”, as she said the core “stay at home message” would stay in place.
“We are choosing to use the very limited headroom we have right now to get at least some children back to school – because children’s education and wellbeing is such a priority,” she said.
“But being able to get children back to education may mean the rest of us living with some other restrictions for longer. That is a trade-off we need to be willing to make.”
Mainland Scotland was placed into lockdown on Jan 4 to tackle the rising spread of the new coronavirus strain. The measures include a legally-enforceable stay-at-home order.
Rules were tightened further on Jan 16, with click-and-collect services being banned, apart from those which serve essentials, such as clothing, baby equipment and books.
In addition, takeaway food and hot drinks can only be served outside of a building and a ban has been placed on alcohol consumption in public in Level 4 areas, including those purchased at takeaway services.
Five cases of the South Africa mutation have been identified in Scotland, but they are all linked to travel. Across Scotland, the UK variant now accounts for 73 per cent of cases.
The First Minister confirmed on Feb 11, during her daily press conference, that the current R number in Scotland was below 1.0.
Ms Sturgeon said: “The level of hospital admissions has now taken us below the number of admissions seen in the peak last spring.”
On Feb 16 a further 49 deaths were recorded with 28 days of a positive Covid test, taking the total to 6,764 in Scotland.