Labour MSP warns lockdown relaxation is “fraught with danger”

As Scotland enters phase one of the lockdown easing tomorrow, families in the Borders can now meet up without the aid of a digital device.
Labour MSP Colin Smyth welcomes today's lifting of some lockdown restrictions, but said they were "fraught with danger".Labour MSP Colin Smyth welcomes today's lifting of some lockdown restrictions, but said they were "fraught with danger".
Labour MSP Colin Smyth welcomes today's lifting of some lockdown restrictions, but said they were "fraught with danger".

In 10 long weeks of the restrictions put in place due to the coronavirus outbreak, loved ones in separate households have only been able to keep in touch through online hangouts.

As expected, first minister Nicola Sturgeon announced the begining of ‘phase one’ of the end of lockdown at lunchtime today, and families will greet the news with great warmth.

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There will be no hugs, however, as social distancing rules will still be in place, with people having to stay at least two metres away from their loved ones from different households.

Nicola Sturgeon announcing a loosening of Scotland's lockdown laws today.Nicola Sturgeon announcing a loosening of Scotland's lockdown laws today.
Nicola Sturgeon announcing a loosening of Scotland's lockdown laws today.

It is a tentative change to the current lockdown rules and we could be back at square one if there is a sharp rise of infections.

South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth warned people not to think everything’s OK, as coronavirus was still out there.

He said: “This slight easing of the lockdown will be welcome by many people, but it is fraught with dangers.

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“Lots of people have been in touch with me about issues such as recycling centres, garden centres and golf courses so they will be relieved.

“But if everyone now rushes to take advantage of the changes then that will cause huge problems and we will soon find ourselves back in lockdown.

People need to act responsibly, use common sense and remember that this pandemic has killed many people in our region and ultimately saving lives is the most important consideration in everything we do.

“The big change in the government’s approach is that much of what has been announced is a request rather than a rule and in some cases that makes sense.

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“It is far safer for people in a rural area to be able to go just a little bit further to ensure we avoid large crowds being in one location.

“However, for most people in our region they will still be able to go somewhere for exercise without having to travel at all and that should still be our aim.

“We need to remember that some communities in popular visitor spots will be worried that there could be a big increase in visitor numbers, so I would urge people to bear that in mind.

“There will also be many people disappointed that the lockdown hasn’t been eased more, especially some businesses.

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“For those who run shops that still can’t open and pubs and restaurants, easing out of lockdown for them is still a long way off and they will be worried about their future.

“That’s why I’ll be keeping the pressure on the government to provide more support for businesses in our region.”

Laying out the changes in her statement today, Mrs Sturgeon said that people meeting family and friends from different households must also remain outdoors, and in groups of no more than eight.

And if, given the good weather expected this weekend, the great reunion was to take the form of a barbecue, those coming should bring their own food and plates, and not visit the toilet.

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Scots are also asked to “stay at home as much as possible”, with Ms Sturgeon warning that the virus “is still out there”.

And she admitted that the relaxation of rules is tentative, and that she was nervous about it.

She said: “I worry that the limited changes we are making to these rules – the very careful changes – might lead to much greater change in reality. So I really need your help to make sure that is not the case.”

Sunbathing is allowed in parks from tomorrow, while still socially distancing, and some outdoor activities like golf and fishing, have been given the go-ahead.

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Golf courses across the region are set to allow play only on a restricted member-only basis. All play must be booked through the BRS system to regulate the number of golfers on the course at any one time. There may be further restrictions in place as clubs see fit.

Anglers are now able to buy permits to fish waters within five miles of their home, as of tomorrow.

Charlie Whelan, ambassador for The SGA Fishing Group, said: “We look forward to seeing a few more local people back out enjoying the wonderful rivers and fisheries in their communities and the high quality angling experiences on offer in Scotland.

“This move will benefit people’s mental and physical wellbeing and it will also be great to see kids back out fishing within their family groups.

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“We reiterate the First Minister’s view in that anglers and those providing angling need to be respectful of the national progress made in keeping the virus in check. They need to make responsible judgements.

“That way, the angling community will be playing an important part in potentially getting more things opened up in future.”

Garden centres and drive-through takeaways can reopen, some outdoor work can resume, and childminding services can begin.