Nicola Sturgeon warns of 'new normal' with phased end to lockdown
Scots may need to adjust to a “new normal” as restrictions are slowly lifted as part of a phased end to lockdown, according to a new Scottish Government paper.
Releasing a new report setting out the measures required to constrain the spread of the virus while minimising overall harm to health, society and the economy, Nicola Sturgeon said that although the Scottish Government will look to ease the restrictions which have been in place since 23 March, it may be necessary to re-introduce them with little notice in order to save lives.
She warned: “As we start to lift the restrictions, the real risk is that COVID-19 runs rampant again so a return to normal as we knew it is not on the cards in the near future.”
Meanwhile the First Minister said gatherings in pubs and at public events were likely to be banned or restricted for some time to come, and that not all pupils may be able to attend school at once because of social distancing rules.
The paper does not set out dates for restrictions to be relaxed. Instead the move from lockdown is likely to be phased, with some measures kept in place until the end of the year.
The report outlines plans to “very carefully open up parts of our economy and society”, while maintaining physical distancing, good hand hygiene and public hygiene, and enhanced public health surveillance.
It says: “We are likely to require that gathering in groups, for example in pubs or at public events, is banned or restricted for some time to come."
It adds: “It is clear that we cannot immediately return to how things were just over 100 days ago. But it is equally clear we cannot stay in complete lockdown indefinitely, because we know that this brings damaging consequences of its own. So we must adapt to a new reality.
“With scientists around the world working on vaccines and treatments that are still potentially many months away, we need to find a way to live with this virus and minimise its harms. We need to ensure, that as far as we can, our children are educated, that businesses can reopen, and that society can function. But we must ensure that those things happen while we continue to suppress the spread of the virus.”
Releasing the paper, Sturgeon said she wanted to “start a grown up conversation with the public” about the decisions facing governent.
She said: “As we have done all along, we will seek to inform the public with the best scientific advice possible, but the science will never be exact and we are in uncharted territory so we also need to make careful judgements and be prepared to adapt and change course as we go.
“We want to ease restrictions, but we cannot rule out having to reapply them should the virus run out of control.
“Every day we see evidence that this virus causes real harm, but so too do the lockdown measures we are taking to contain it. This is causing harm to the economy and living standards, to children’s education and to mental health and wellbeing.
“That is why we need to try to find a better balance than the one we have now, but as we do so we cannot take our eye off the need to suppress the virus and minimise the damage it does.
“It is only when we are sure the virus is under control that we can even start to ease any of the restrictions because the virus will not have gone away.
“As we start to lift the restrictions, the real risk is that COVID-19 runs rampant again so a return to normal as we knew it is not on the cards in the near future.
“What we will be seeking to find is a new normal - a way of living alongside this virus, but in a form that keeps it under control.
“Physical distancing and limiting our contacts with others will be a fact of life for a long time to come - certainly until treatments and ultimately a vaccine offer different solutions. But if we all keep doing the right things, there will be a way through – and we will find it, together.”