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Further relaxing of Scottish lockdown to be announced

Fraser Bremner/Scottish Daily Mail/PA Wire/PA Images

Further relaxing of Scottish lockdown to be announced

Not all measures will be introduced at once and it is thought that Sturgeon will seek to prioritise steps to prepare schools to reopen successfully in August.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is expected to announce further easing of coronavirus lockdown measures today.

The move to phase two of the Scottish Government’s ‘routemap’ out of lockdown could involve people being allowed to meet other households indoors, as well as meet in larger groups outside. Some workers are likely to return to certain workplaces and more types of shops could reopen.

But not all measures will be introduced at once and it is thought that Sturgeon will seek to prioritise steps to prepare schools to reopen successfully in August.

Sturgeon has said that not all changes will come into force overnight and that it might not be until “the coming weeks” that many are in place.

Measures such as the reopening of outdoor areas in pubs and café, smaller retailers or the full resumption of weddings may not come for weeks.

The Scottish Government has come under pressure from opposition parties to give more detail and take more steps to ensure normal reopening of schools from 11 August.

Speaking in parliament during First Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Sturgeon said that the virus is still “dangerous and potentially deadly” and urged MSPs to bare this in mind when criticising the government’s path out of lockdown.

She said that while she did not want to “play fast and loose” with childrens’ health that she recognised the need to return to normalcy in schools was important for their wellbeing.

However, she said that ensuring suppression of the virus across the country was the most important prerequisite to reopening schools and suggested that this would have an affect on what types of measures she could announce today.

Sturgeon told opposition parties to bear this in mind and warned against arguing both for resumption of schools and for faster reopening of the economy, which she said were at odds with one another.

She said: “When I stand up here tomorrow and set out the next steps, then those that want normality in our schools but also say we should go quicker out of lockdown will have a fundamental contradiction at the heart of their argument."

One of Scotland’s leading global public health experts, Professor Devi Sridhar, has said in recent days that getting pupils back in schools should be the “imperative” for the Scottish Government.

Sridhar told the BBC that this consideration should come before shops, pubs and adults gathering.

She added: “[Children] don’t have a strong lobby, they don’t vote, therefore we sometimes forget about their interests actually and that they do need to get back into schools. We need to figure out a way to prioritise those settings and to make them safe enough that there is confidence among parents and teachers to engage and actually participate fully.”

Sturgeon told parliament that she agrees “whole heartedly” with Sridhar’s analyses when taken “in totality”.

Both Sturgeon and education secretary John Swinney have said that they do not want the “blended model” of part time home schooling to continue any longer than necessary.

Other measures expected to factor into the First Minister’s statement on entering phase two of lockdown measures will be the next steps for the tourism industry.

Tourism minister Fergus Ewing told the industry to prepare for a conditional reopening on 15 July. Sturgeon will likely confirm whether this is possible today as well.

Sturgeon has spoken at length about the need to “balance” public health with economic recovery.

Figures released this week show that Scotland’s economy has been hit severely by the lockdown, with a shrink in GDP of 18.9 per cent and unemployment rising to 4.6 per cent, which is the highest in the UK.

The coronavirus has resulted in the death of 4,070 people in Scotland so far. Around 1,000 people remain in hospital receiving treatment for the effects of the virus

Read the most recent article written by Ailean Beaton - James Dornan reverses decision to stand down at Scottish election

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