Route out of lockdown is welcomed

First minister Nicola Sturgeon today released details on how Scotland will ease out of the current coronavirus lockdown.

By Kevin Janiak
Thursday, 21st May 2020, 4:35 pm
First minister Nicola Sturgeon laid out the plans for a gradual ease of lockdown restrictions today in Holyrood.
First minister Nicola Sturgeon laid out the plans for a gradual ease of lockdown restrictions today in Holyrood.

And there was good news for golfers, anglers and gardeners, among others, as phase one of the so-called “route map” towards easing of restrictions could begin as early as next Thursday, May 28, however, until then, the “Stay at Home” rule will stay in place.

Mrs Sturgeon said the move to phase one is not “set in stone” and added that it would only happen if the rate at which the virus is spreading remains at a low level – currently 0.7-1.

The first phase will allow limited contact with other households in outdoor spaces such as gardens, while maintaining a 2m social distance.

Public gatherings are not allowed at this stage.

It will also allow people to sit in parks and sunbathe in certain areas, and more outdoor activities will be allowed, such as golf, bowls, fishing, canoeing, hiking and outdoor swimming.

People will be allowed to travel, preferably by walking or cycling, within five miles of their homes for recreation.

Mrs Sturgeon said schools will reopen to pupils on August 11, but only on a part-time basis, while teachers will return to school in June to prepare for the next school year.

Waste and recycling services will resume and outdoor businesses such as forestry and agriculture will be allowed while maintaining social distancing, along with construction through a phased plan in consultation with the Scottish Government.

For businesses which are being allowed to reopen, bosses are being urged to allow flexible working and have staff start at staggered times.

The ban on takeaway and drive-through outlets will be lifted and garden centres will also reopen, although indoor shops and cafes will remain closed.

Courts, children’s hearings and tribunal buildings are also expected to begin, with extra restrictions on public access.

Stalled NHS services, including mental health, will restart and GP services will be retained, while still focusing on digital consultations, which urgent elective treatment will also begin again.

Further phases will be assessed on the existing three-weekly basis, where the reproduction rate will be examined, as per WHO guidelines.

Phase two will include the re-opening of pubs and restaurants, as long as they can provide social distancing, phase three will see larger groups being allowed and a relaxation of restrictions on travelling for leisure purposes.

Phase four, which may not happen for many months, will see a wider relaxation of rules, and a gradual return to normal living.

The route map has been welcomed by SNP MSP Christine Grahame this afternoon, who said the routemap gives practical examples of what people, organisations and businesses can expect to see change over time.

She said: ““We all know that we can’t live this way forever and we all want to get back some sense of normality.

“While we need to move carefully and gradually, the route map laid out today by the first minister clearly sets out the steps that will take us there.

“Too many people have lost their lives to this disease and we can’t risk another peak – so we must move in line with our own circumstances.

“We will get through this by working together by sticking to the advice to suppress the virus further and get back a way of life that is as close to normal as possible.”

The government claims that the NHS Scotland test, trace, isolate and support system – known as Test and Protect – will be ready for expansion in all 14 health boards from next Thursday.

Conservative MSP Rachael Hamilton also welcomed the first minister’s announcement on the first steps out of lockdown, but warned that each phase can only be actioned if an adequate testing system is in place.

Mrs Hamilton said she was glad to see restrictions lifted in certain areas, in line with the UK approach, and called on the Scottish government to ‘get to grips’ with contact tracing and increased testing.

She said: “Today’s announcement shows that the UK-wide approach is working as the majority of what Nicola Sturgeon has announced, was already successfully implemented in England.

“I am glad to see Scotland finally following suit and reopening garden centres and allowing outdoor sports and activities.

“However, if this is to be successful in Scotland, we need effective contact tracing and testing to be taking place.

“The pressure that myself and Scottish Conservative colleagues put on the Scottish Government surrounding garden centres has paid off, and I am pleased they have reversed the illogical position on their closure.

“I want to see greater clarity on sectoral approaches. The construction industry must be able to restart outdoor work.

“The hospitality and services industries must be given clear steps on how best to proceed with opening up again.

“Car showrooms, hairdressers and cafes are just some of the examples who require clear and concise guidance on the next steps around reopening with social distancing in place.

“Thank you to all my constituents who have adhered to the advice and continue to do so, the hard work means we can now move to the next phase”.