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Coronavirus / End of lockdown still weeks away

Scottish Government publishes details of ‘careful and gradual’ changes to lockdown restrictions

ANY LIFTING of the current strict lockdown measures are unlikely to be implemented before the end of May, first minster Nicola Sturgeon has warned.

Launching the Scottish Government’s Framework for Decision Making for coming out of lockdown, the first minister said on Tuesday there was “very little room, if any” to make changes to the current restrictions at the next three-weekly review date on Thursday.

However, “real progress” in fighting Covid-19 is being made, she said, not least in the declining numbers of people requiring intensive care and/or dying from the disease.

On Tuesday, the number of patients who tested positive and died rose by a further 44 to 1,620 in Scotland. In Shetland meanwhile, the number of confirmed cases remained unchanged at 54.

The government estimates that there are about 26,000 people in Scotland currently infected with Covid-19.

She said the document describes “careful and gradual changes to the lockdown restrictions” which will be made once the government and its team of advisers judge these as safe to be made, adding that the time “wasn’t right now”.

First minister Nicola Sturgeon.

However, come the end of May, or early June, and once the test, trace, isolate and support regime (TTIS) has been implemented, the first steps towards a ‘new normal’ are set to be taken.

Similar to other European countries where this process is getting under way four weeks ahead of the UK, the changes being considered include the amount of time people can spend outside, the number of people they are allowed to meet, as well as the return of some NHS services that have been put on hold while the health service was responding to the emergency.

Reluctant to put any dates to any these changes, Sturgeon said that the government’s education recovery group was discussing options of at least partially opening schools for some pupil groups, although it might not be possible to open schools fully “at this side of the summer”.

Similar approaches will be taken towards businesses affected by the lockdown. Construction, manufacturing and retails businesses will only be allowed to operate again if it is safe to do so.

The document states: “But to be clear, restrictions are likely to remain in place for some business activity for some time to come, especially where safe working is harder to achieve.

“Changes already adopted in many sectors, for example working from home and the use of digital technology, are likely to persist as part of the ‘new normal’”.

On the hotly debated issue of whether island communities should follow a different roadmap, the Scottish Government doesn’t commit other than saying it keeps an open mind on the issue.

Avoiding the word ‘island(s)’, the document states: “Geographical variation could also happen within Scotland. For example, future evidence may indicate that there are certain geographies where a differential approach, or different timings in the same broad approach, would be appropriate.

“Assessment of the right way forward would factor in broader considerations, including the scope for any geographical (or sectoral) variation to impact on the clarity of communication and broader operational considerations, for example in relation to localised testing measures and travel restrictions in the event of a geographically varied approach.

“And we would listen to the views of people, businesses and organisations affected by such changes. No decisions on this have been made at this stage and we will continue to keep this option under review as part of our broader review process.”

Meanwhile, Sturgeon encouraged people to use a new online tool to engage in a conversation with the Scottish Government, offer ideas, voice concern and comment on the next steps out of the lockdown.

The Framework for Decision Making document can be downloaded here.