NICOLA Sturgeon today announced Scottish pubs will open up indoors three weeks ahead of those in England as she accelerated her plans to ease the country's lockdown.

The First Minister said bars and restaurants will be able to welcome customers back inside from April 26 "on a restricted basis" – while English boozers have to wait until at least May 17.

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In optimistic remarks, she declared: "Covid is in retreat in Scotland, there’s no doubt about that."

Her comments contrasted with a much more gloomy Boris Johnson, who played down the role of the vaccination programme in defeating the virus.

Ms Sturgeon said: "It’s worth noting the restricted indoor opening of hospitality on the 26th will be actually three weeks ahead of any indoor opening of hospitality in England."

The First Minister announced she's bringing forward several dates for the easing of lockdown rules, with a heavy focus on allowing families and friends to meet up again.

She said the "significant progress" Scotland has made in battling the virus means it's now in a position to "accelerate" its exit from restrictions towards a "much greater return to normality".

From this Friday restrictions on outdoor mixing are being relaxed so that up to six adults from six different households are able to gather.

And travel rules which banned people from leaving their local areas are also being binned, meaning Scots will be able to travel the length and breadth of the country for socialising and exercising.

Hospitality will need to close their doors at 8pm indoors and 10pm outdoors, with alcohol only allowed to be served outside.

From May 17, pubs are set to open indoors until 10:30pm and contact sports, cinemas, and some small scale events can take place.


Ms Sturgeon told a coronavirus briefing there had been three deaths from coronavirus and 221 positive tests in the past 24 hours.

It followed an almost seven-month low in cases on Monday, with just 199 cases.

She said: "The improved data does not allow us simply to throw caution to the wind, certainly not if we want to be sensible about this, but it does give us a bit of limited headroom.

"So, from Friday we will all be able to travel anywhere in Scotland for the purposes of outdoor socialising, recreation or informal exercise."

She added: "From Friday onwards, that will change to six adults from up to six households – that's quite a significant relaxation of that outdoor meeting limit.

"Please do remember that at this stage probably until the middle of May meetings must still be outdoors not inside our own homes."

But the First Minister warned restrictions on international travel may have to stay in place for the foreseeable future, to stop new variants of the virus entering the country.

She said: "It may well be the case we do have to endure restrictions on international travel a bit longer as the price we pay for much greater normality here in Scotland.

"We will not keep these restrictions in place for longer than necessary but it is important for now to protect our progress here.

"The best way to keep on making progress out of lockdown is to continue to keep cases low."


She declared: "Covid is in retreat in Scotland, there’s no doubt about that, but it hasn’t gone away.

"It won’t magically go away, it will come back if we allow it to come back.

"If we all continue to do the right things do the sensible things enjoy responsible this easing of restrictions there’s every reason for us now to be really optimistic we’re firmly on the right track."

The announcement came just minutes after the PM warned Britain's lockdown has led to lower Covid deaths NOT the vaccine – and admitted numbers would rise again as England unlocks.

The PM struck a much more downbeat tone and claimed today that "the bulk of the work" was done by people staying inside and not Britain's world leading jab rollout.

Speaking to reporters this morning, Boris warned that cases would go up and urged the nation to continue to be cautious as the head back to the pub.

It comes after England went into the next phase of unlocking yesterday – with shops, gyms, hairdressers and outdoor cafes open for the first time in months.

People were able to raise a pint and have a meal with friends, go shopping and finally get a haircut.

But indoor mixing is still off for now – and holidays abroad won't return until at least May 17.

The PM wants all Covid restrictions to be lifted by June, but won't confirm this until nearer the time.

Boris said this morning that numbers were down so much because of the extended lockdown, and just because the nation was unlocking, it didn't mean people should relax yet.

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