'The stay at home message will stay', Swinney says
Ahead of Nicola Sturgeon's statement on easing lockdown, the deputy First Minister said that continuing to stay at home is "fundamentally the advice that we are giving to people and will be giving to people"
John Swinney has said that the “stay at home” message will remain in place after the First Minister’s statement to parliament today on the next steps to gradually easing the lockdown.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will present the Scottish Government’s ‘route map’ for easing the current COVID-19 restrictions to MSPs this afternoon, including more detail on the reopening of schools.
But Swinney, the Deputy First Minister and education secretary, suggested that the public would need to continue to make sacrifices before it would be safe for any major advancements on the reopening of society.
He said: “The stay at home message will stay.
“That is fundamentally the advice that we are giving to people and will be giving to people.
“Yes, there will be some relaxation of the lockdown and we have relaxed the lockdown to some extent already because people are able to exercise more from their home than was the case in the past.
“But fundamentally, although we are seeing the reduction of the effect of coronavirus, we have not seen it eliminated yet and we must all continue to play our part in trying to eliminate coronavirus in our society.”
The first phase of Sturgeon’s four stage plan is expected to include re-opening of garden centres and recycling sites, as well as more outdoor activity, including sitting in parks, some outdoor sports such as fishing and golf, meeting someone from another household outside and the resumption of some outdoor work.
But it is understood that the main priority for the First Minister will be restarting NHS capacity to deal with urgent non-coronavirus related care.
Asked if the public were at risk of moving faster than the Scottish Government’s plans will allow, Swinney said that the government will have to “communicate very clearly the risks and dangers” of flouting the rules.
He said: “I think we all are hearing examples in our society of people who are contracting coronavirus and it is having a devastating effect on their lives, in some circumstances leading to fatalities.
“That is a desperate situation and we have to work together as a society to try to over come that.”
Pressed if the government should be more forceful in its advice, following reports of large numbers of people gathering at beaches and beauty spots yesterday as well as little signs of people wearing face coverings as recommended, Swinney said “there are steps every single one of us has to take to make sure we’re playing a part in tackling coronavirus”.
“So many people over so many weeks have done so much to follow that guidance.
“Although the scenes [from Portobello beach] yesterday are concerning, there have been weeks and weeks in which people have really played their part in trying to tackle COVID.”
On the possible reopening of schools, Swinney said that the First Minister would set out specific details of what arrangements will be in place for bringing pupils back into education safely.
He said: “The scientific advice that we have indicates that it is safe with the necessary precautions in place.”
Pressed if there will be that level of detail in the First Minister’s speech, Swinney said “yes, there will be”.
He added: “Those details will be set out by the First Minister in a statement to parliament today...but what I want to make sure is that staff, parents and pupils have clarity about how Scottish education is going to resume in a more formal sense”.
“It will be resumed when we have built confidence about the safety of schools, about the scientific evidence and about the approaches we are taking to adapt to these considerations.”