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May 22, 2020

Four-phase plan to lift Scotland lockdown begins next week

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P
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May 22, 2020

EDINBURGH: Nicola Sturgeon has revealed her four-point plan for easing the Covid-19 lockdown in Scotland, but she warned stricter measures may be put in place if progress in tackling the virus falters.

Scots will be allowed to meet people from one other household, sunbathe and take part in some non-contact sports from the end of next week. All schools will reopen on August 11, but to ensure social distancing in class children will return to a “blended model of part-time in-school and part-time at-home learning”. But the First Minister said: “I cannot stand here and rule out to the people of Scotland that at some point over the next few months we might have to go back the way, because this virus is unpredictable.

“For all our progress, the virus has not gone away. It continues to pose a significant threat to health. And if we move too quickly or without proper care, it could run out of control again very quickly.”

The First Minister unveiled her plan, which is based on World Health Organisation advice and the experience of other nations easing lockdown, in a statement to MSPs.

She told Holyrood the first phase could begin on May 28, but “not every phase one measure will necessarily be introduced immediately”.

The initial changes, outlined in a Scottish government document, include the gradual reopening of drive-through food outlets as well as garden centres and plant nurseries. The second phase could see Scots allowed to meet larger groups of family and friends outside, and also meet people from another household indoors with physical distancing and hygiene measures in place.

At that point pubs and restaurants can also open outdoor spaces such as beer gardens, again with physical distancing and increased hygiene routines.

By phase three, things will “begin to feel closer to normal”.

That will see pubs and restaurants open indoor spaces and “personal retail services” including hairdressers begin to trade again – but all with appropriate distancing and hygiene measures in place.

Phase four will be reached when “the virus remains suppressed to very low levels and is no longer considered a significant threat to public health” – but the document warns the public will have to remain “safety conscious”.

This final phase will see mass gatherings resume, schools and childcare provision “operating with any necessary precautions”, and while working from home and flexible working will still be encouraged “all types of workplaces would be open in line with public health advice”.

Sturgeon said: “This route-map sketches out how, and in what stages, we might move back to some normality as we continue to live with this virus.” But she added the plan does “not yet set definite dates for all phases, because the virus is unpredictable”.

While the R number – or infection rate – was estimated to have been as high as four in March, Sturgeon said this currently remains at between 0.7 and one. The First Minister also revealed the latest figures show 2,221 patients have died after testing positive for coronavirus, up by 37 from Wednesday.

Sturgeon conceded there “is no completely risk-free way of lifting lockdown” – saying those risks must be mitigated as much as possible.