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Next stage of lockdown easing offers more freedom for children and young people

Nicola Sturgeon at New Look, Fort Kinnaird - Image credit: PA

Next stage of lockdown easing offers more freedom for children and young people

Face coverings will become compulsory in shops in Scotland from Friday 10 July, the First Minister has announced as she outlined the next phase of lockdown lifting for Scotland, which sees more freedom for children and young people.

From Friday 3 July children up to the age of 11 will not have to physically distance from other children or from adults while they are outdoors.

However, they must continue physical distancing indoors and the rule restricting get-togethers to one a day in groups of no more than eight people from a maximum of three different households still applies.

Older children aged between 12 and 17 will be allowed as many meetings with others per day as they like, although still in groups of no more than eight with a maximum of two other households at one time and physically distanced.

The two-metre physical distancing rule will continue to apply to adults and children over 12 both indoors and outdoors.

From Friday 3 July the five-mile limit on travel for leisure purposes will also be lifted, allowing people to travel further afield for day trips or overnight if they wish.

The First Minister confirmed that the reopening of hospitality and travel will go ahead as planned, with self-contained holiday accommodation such as cottages and caravans able to reopen from Friday 3 July, pavement cafes and beer gardens from Monday 6 July and a full reopening of tourism from Wednesday 15 July.

The only exceptions to this lifting of travel restrictions is in Dumfries and Galloway, where residents and visitors around Annan, Gretna, Dumfries, Lockerbie, Langholm and Canonbie must stay within five miles of over the weekend and visits to care homes are on hold due to an outbreak of coronavirus in the area.

Although Nicola Sturgeon confirmed that two metres would remain the default for social distancing, she announced that some exemptions could be made to reduce the distance to one metre in hospitality, retail and public transport as long as other mitigation measures were put in place.

Mitigations could include things like putting up protective screens, controlling customer flow, seating plans to reduce likelihood of transmission and bars and restaurants collecting customer contact details to help with potential contact tracing.

Sturgeon said she hoped to have the guidance agreed for the start of phase three of lockdown easing at the end of next week and ahead of the opening of tourism and hospitality from 15 July.

In the meantime, the current rules apply, which means that beer gardens and outdoor café seating opening on Monday must comply with the two-metre rule.

Noting the increased risk of somewhere between two and 10-fold in reducing social distancing from two metres to one metre, the First Minister said: “To be clear, these will be exceptions. The general rule – in law – will continue to be that that businesses and services must take all reasonable measures to ensure that two-metre distancing is maintained.”

The First Minister’s announcement of further easing of lockdown and aspects of social distancing has been broadly welcomed by business groups, with a few reservations.

David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: “Scottish ministers have clearly listened to a number of the representations that the retail industry has made in determining further relaxations of lockdown.

“Lifting the five-mile limit, not asking shopworkers to enforce the wearing of face coverings and accepting our argument that physical distancing could be reduced when appropriate mitigations are in place will help retailers’ operations without impinging on public health.

“More steps will be needed, but there is much retailers can support in the First Minister’s announcement.”

Dr Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said: “Businesses in the hard-pressed retail, hospitality and tourism sectors will welcome this flexibility.

“Being able to reduce distances from 2m to 1m will mean more businesses can now start planning to re-open.”

But she added: “Whilst this is a step in the right direction, we will need clarity and detail on the mitigations that businesses will be asked to implement. 

“Ultimately, preventing the spread of the virus is everyone's responsibility and we must work together to ensure the mitigations are practical and affordable for businesses.

“Anything short of that will result in further job losses.”

Andrew McRae, FSB’s Scotland policy chair, said: “This is another welcome step along the road to freeing us from lockdown and getting the country back to business. 

“There’s a real need, if we’re to stem the tide of rising job losses and avoid long-term damage, to get as much of the economy up and running as quickly and safely as possible.

“There is a lot in this announcement, and it is complicated – particularly around the two-metre rule – so it will be crucial that the businesses who will be in charge of implementing the new rules are given clear guidance on the rules and their practical application.

“That’s especially the case with mandatory face coverings in shops. 

“That will be a big change for small retailers, and it would have been easier to prepare if this was flagged ahead of them re-opening on Monday. 

“Now there’s very limited time to implement this and understandable concern about creating tensions with customers.”

But the STUC warned that workers’ health could be put at risk by a relaxation of the two-metre rule, and it would be difficult for staff if they had to enforce rules such as mask wearing, social distancing or taking customer contact details.

STUC general secretary Roz Foyer said: “It is clear that the scientific advice has not changed – relaxing social distancing from two metres to one metre comes with increased risk – between two and tenfold.

“And let’s be honest, for many people two metres has always meant less in practice and shifting down to one metre therefore carries even greater risk than the modelling tells us.  

“It is therefore disappointing that the Government have succumbed to industry lobbying and will relax social distancing, albeit with mitigations, in certain sectors.  

“As the outbreak in Dumfries and Galloway, and testing at Youngs food factory and Alpha Solway factory shows, there is little doubt that workplace transmission is a major risk factor in localised spikes in infection.”

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