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Scottish Government publishes plan to ease coronavirus lockdown

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

Scottish Government publishes plan to ease coronavirus lockdown

From 28 May people will be able to meet with others from outside their household and some types of businesses will be able to re-open

The Scottish Government has published its plans to ease the coronavirus lockdown restrictions over the coming months.

From 28 May people will be able to meet with others from outside their household and some types of businesses will be able to re-open.

Garden centres and recycling facilities will be among the first areas to resume, while individuals will be allowed to spend more time outdoors, sitting or sunbathing in parks.

Schools will not return until 11 August, but teachers will begin work in June to prepare classrooms for a partial reopening after the summer holidays.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon made the announcements in a statement to parliament setting out a four-phase ‘route map’ to easing lockdown restrictions.

She said that an NHS test, trace, isolate and support strategy, referred to as Test and Protect, will be key to the lifting of restriction and will be implemented across all 14 health boards by 28 May.

The First Minister stressed, however, that at present the public health guidance remains to stay at home except for essential purposes and exercise and to continually observe social distancing and hand washing.

She also warned that the government will be “constantly monitoring” the levels of coronavirus and will make decisions on whether to speed up or slow the lifting of lockdown according to scientific advice.

The exact timing of each phase of the easing plan has not been set and document suggests that each phase could last longer than each three week review period, with the final phase unlikely to be reached for “many months or longer”.

That means that the first phase beginning on 28 May could last until 9 July or beyond.

Sturgeon said: “Our emergence from lockdown will be faster or slower, depending on the continued success that we have in suppressing the virus.”

The ‘route map’ document features a four-phase approach covering nine key areas and describes the necessary conditions under which certain freedoms could be allowed.

The nine categories are seeing family and friends; getting around [transport]; schools and childcare settings; working or running a business; shopping, eating out and drinking; sport, culture and leisure; community and public services; gatherings and occasions; health and social care.

Phase one of the plan will begin on 28 May, when people will be able to meet with others from a different household, although initially only in an outdoor setting and while remaining two meters apart at all times.

Visiting people inside their homes will not be allowed in the initial phases of the plan.

Sunbathing in parks and other open areas will be allowed, either alone or within household groups.

Garden centres and recycling points will be reopened and takeaway or drive-through food businesses will “no longer be discouraged” from opening.

People who are able to work from home should continue to do so, she added.

Updated advice will be issued in the coming weeks to those in the ‘shielded’ category, who must continue to live in isolation through the first phases of the plan.

Sturgeon said: “Today I have set out details of Scotland’s route map through and out of the COVID-19 crisis.

“The current key public health guidance remains to stay at home except for essential purposes, but the route map provides information about how and when we might ease our lockdown restrictions while continuing to suppress the virus.

“The lockdown restrictions have been necessary to reduce and mitigate the massive harm caused by the COVID-19 virus, but the lockdown itself causes harm including loneliness and social isolation, deepening inequalities and damage to the economy. That is why I have set out the gradual and incremental phases by which we will aim to ease lockdown matched with careful monitoring of the virus.

“At every one of these stages, the biggest single factor in controlling the virus will be how well we continue to observe public health advice. Continued hand washing, cough hygiene and physical distancing will continue to be essential as will wearing a face covering where appropriate.

“By doing the right thing, all of us have helped to slow the spread of the virus, to protect the NHS, and to save lives and as a result we are able – gradually, cautiously, and in phases – to plan our move towards a new normality.”

During her statement, Sturgeon thanked children in particular for their patience during the lockdown, saying that they had been “truly magnificent”, prompting applause from MSPs.

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