Overview and progress
In the Strategic Framework update which we published on 23 February 2021, we reconfirmed our strategic intent 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.
We also said that we would:
- provide further information in mid-March on easing restrictions
- gather further information on vaccine effectiveness and the transmissibility of the new B.1.1.7. variant of the virus
- maintain a flexible, data-led approach to easing restrictions and accelerate easing where possible
This document summarises the route out of lockdown back into a more flexible way of combatting the virus and reopening our economy and society.
The accompanying graphic sets out how the proposed changes may affect you.
Progress since 23 February 2021
Since 23 February, we have made good progress in suppressing the virus, although there is no room for complacency. Our vaccination programme has rolled out further, thanks to the outstanding efforts of many thousands of people. Uptake is very high and vaccination is continuing across the priority groups. 1.8 million people had received their first dose by 11 March 2021, an 8% increase from 4 March. There are now indications of decreasing case rates and deaths among those groups vaccinated first. We expect that vaccination will reduce infection levels in the most vulnerable groups in the coming weeks and months.
We know that the new B.1.1.7 variant of the virus is much more transmissible than the original variant. We also need to take careful note of other emerging variants and, in particular, how transmissible they are and to what extent the vaccines are able to combat them.
Our NHS is still under pressure, although there are signs that the pressure on numbers of beds and also intensive care beds is easing. Given the progress we have made in our vaccination programme, and the people of Scotland sticking to protective measures, fewer people are contracting the virus and therefore fewer people require hospital treatment. For example, one study showed that, four weeks after receiving an initial vaccine dose, the Pfizer and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines reduced the risk of hospitalisation from COVID-19 in up to 85% and 94% of people respectively. We have also learned more from the latest research about:
- how long vaccines can protect an individual
- how the vaccines offer protection against emerging variants
- the impact the vaccines have on transmission
These recent advances, together with the strict lockdown measures in place since January, mean that we are now increasingly able to suppress the virus. This can be seen in the gradual reduction in the R number to between 0.6 and 0.8 and in the overall reduction in cases per 100,000 and of daily case rates, particularly for those groups who have now been vaccinated. We have already been able to initiate some careful but significant easings of restrictions, particularly in relation to getting children and young people back to early learning and childcare settings and schools. Further, we have been able to introduce limited easing of outdoor socialising rules for adults and 12-17 year olds. Now we can extend our planning horizon.
Indicative dates are set out in the section: timetable for easing restrictions.
You can view earlier versions of this timetable document in the gov.scot archive.