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Scotland’s Covid lockdown timeline from shutdown to ‘beyond Level 0’ in 16 months

Covid in Scotland lockdown timeline
It has been 16 months since restrictions were put in place

Scotland’s Covid lockdown rules have now relaxed almost completely, 16 months since the first restrictions were put in place as a result of the pandemic.

People across the country have lived with significant restrictions since the initial three-week lockdown was announced on March 23 last year by Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon.

Businesses were ordered to close and Scots were told to stay at home except for essential reasons.

Classrooms were emptied and even going for a walk was off-limits more than once a day.

We’ve taken a look back at how the coronavirus lockdown unfolded over the last 16 months, and how the country saw the rules change over time.

Scotland’s Covid lockdown timeline — how it started

In a speech on March 17, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament life as we know it would change as a result of the pandemic.

After the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the coronavirus a pandemic on March 11, the Scottish and UK governments began to announce measures designed to delay how quickly it hit the country.

Scotland's covid lockdown timeline - schools close
Schools and nurseries, such as the High School of Dundee, were closed on March 19 in Scotland

Guidance was issued to health boards across the country and Scots were strongly urged to limit their social contact as much as possible.

By March 19 the government had announced schools and nurseries would close by the end of the week.

“This has been one of the hardest decisions we have faced so far as we tackle the coronavirus,” Nicola Sturgeon said.

Nicola Sturgeon told Scots life would change significantly

She explained: “We also know more and more schools are approaching a point where they have lost too many staff to continue as normal.

“At this stage I cannot promise schools and nurseries will reopen after the Easter break.”

Lockdown is announced

March 23 2020: In a televised address to the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson says that people should only go outside to buy food, to exercise once a day, or to go to work “if they absolutely cannot work from home”.

Boris Johnson announces lockdown from March 24
Boris Johnson announces lockdown from March 24

Nicola Sturgeon confirmed the same rules would apply in Scotland from March 24.

“Let me blunt. The stringent restrictions on our normal day-to-day lives that I’m about to set out are difficult and they are unprecedented.

“They amount effectively to what has been described as a lockdown,” she said.

Use the timeline below to see how Covid lockdown unfolded in Scotland over the summer and early autumn

Roads emptied as people were told to stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives
Windows were decorated with messages thanking the NHS for its efforts during the crisis

Second wave

Scots saw life return to some normality with restrictions eased at various points over summer 2020 as infection rates fell.

Shops were able to reopen over summer, and people became used to queuing up outside

Despite the progress, some areas saw a slight increase in cases, with local restrictions reintroduced in Aberdeen in early August.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced during August that there would be travel restrictions for some countries amid concern people were importing the virus from abroad
New guidance was also issued to encourage pupils to wear face masks in school

By September 21, health experts had raised serious concerns about the second wave of infections.

The UK chief medical officers went on to say the country should move back into Phase 4 lockdown restrictions.

Local restrictions

From November a set of local lockdown rules were put in place, allowing areas to be in different restrictions based on the number of cases.

Fife, Dundee, Angus and Perth and Kinross moved between Level 3 and 4, with travel banned outwith the area.


On November 24 the government also confirmed that restrictions would ease for a week over the Christmas period.

It was hoped this would enjoy people to allow a family Christmas, but the plans were later reduced significantly and limited to one day only.

Nicola Sturgeon would announced that from Boxing Day, all of Scotland would be placed under Level 4 restrictions

Lockdown 2.0

On January 4, Nicola Sturgeon updated Scots and said all of mainland Scotland would enter a second lockdown.

Nicola Sturgeon announced the second Scotland-wide lockdown in January

There would also be a new legal requirement “forbidding anyone from leaving their home except for essential purposes”.

Shops were shuttered as a result of the rule change
The rules were tightened further on January 16

In a statement to parliament on January 16, Nicola Sturgeon said: “The situation we face in relation to the virus remains extremely serious.

“We must continue to do everything possible to reduce case numbers — this is essential to relieve the pressure on our NHS and to save lives.

At this critical and dangerous moment, please: Stay Home. Protect the NHS. Save lives.

“Both individually and collectively, these additional measures — in further reducing the interactions that allow the virus to spread — will help our essential efforts to suppress it.

Spring — vaccine hails beginning of the end of lockdown

The Stay at Home guidance introduced in January was finally relaxed in April.

Scots were told to Stay Local, and more services including hairdressers, garden centres and non-essential click and collect services were able to reopen.

Beer gardens were allowed to reopen on April 26
Travel restrictions across Scotland also eased slowly
Barbers and other services were also allowed to reopen

All parts of the country moved from Level 4 to 3 at the end of the month, with restrictions still in place on the number of people who could meet.

What could open at Level 3?

  • Cafés, pubs and restaurants could provide full outdoor service and serve food indoors without alcohol until 8pm
  • All shops and  close contact services including hairdressers, barbers and beauty salons
  • Gyms and swimming pools
  • Tourist accommodation

Tayside and Fife move to Level 2

From May 14, most of Scotland, excluding Moray and Glasgow, was able to move to Level 2.

The number of people and households that can meet inside homes in Level 2 was increased to six people from three households.

Dundee remained under Level 2 restrictions amid concern about the high rates of infection over spring 2021
Locals were urged to help drive down infections rates to avoid a move back to Level 3, which was avoided

Other restrictions on social gatherings also changed, and hospitality was able to open for longer.

On June 5 most of Tayside and Fife were able to move to Level 1 restrictions except Dundee.

The end of lockdown

Level 0 allowed the vast majority of businesses to open

Level 0 was announced across Scotland from July 9, allowing businesses to operate with few restrictions.

Social distancing was still mandatory, and face coverings were also to be worn in shops and public places.

Nightclubs were the last remaining business forced to remain closed.

Beyond Level 0

On August 3, Nicola Sturgeon announced Scotland was to move beyond Level 0 on August 9.

The move would end the legal requirement for physical distancing and limits on gatherings.

Some protective measures will stay in place such as the use of face coverings indoors and the collection of contact details as part of Test and Protect.