Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed lockdown easing plans are to go ahead as she told the Scottish Parliament the continued fall in coronavirus cases is giving grounds for “cautious optimism”.

The First Minster told MSPs that primary children will return to school next week as planned along with more senior secondary pupils.

Children in primaries 4-7 are due to join their younger classmates back in school from Monday.

The Herald:

Ms Sturgeon also confirmed that up to four adults from two households will be able to meet outside from Friday.

She spoke as the latest Covid-19 figures show 22 deaths from the virus and 591 positive tests were recorded in the past 24 hours.

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It brings the death toll under this measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – to 7,483.

Marking the one-year anniversary of the World Health Organisation (WHO) declaring Covid-19 a pandemic, Ms Sturgeon said there were grounds for optimism.

“The last 12 months have been incredibly tough – unimaginably tough for everybody,” she said.

“But as I indicated on Tuesday, we do now have real grounds for optimism, albeit cautious optimism.

“Case numbers, hospitalisations and deaths have all fallen in recent weeks and when we publish the latest estimate of the R number later today we expect it to show that it remains below one.

“And, of course, the vaccination programme has given a first dose to 40% of the entire adult population and it is set to significantly accelerate over the next few weeks.”

She told MSPs the Scottish Government “will go ahead as planned with the next stage of the reopening of schools on Monday”.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon confirms a further 591 new cases in Scotland

She added: “In addition, changes to the rules on outdoor meetings and activities which I set out on Tuesday will come into force tomorrow and, as I have indicted, next Tuesday I will provide more information about our plans for the phased reopening of the economy.”

This will take into account the positive news but will also acknowledge the risks faced by new variants, she said.

The Herald:

Tuesday will also see changes announced to the levels system of coronavirus restrictions, which is due to come into force from the end of April.

The First Minister added the vaccination programme is set to significantly accelerate over the next few weeks.

As of Thursday morning, she said 1,825,800 people have received their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine, up 16,642 from yesterday, and 141,433 have received their second dose.