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Coronavirus / Sturgeon announces new measures for coronavirus

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PEOPLE will be freer to socialise but will have to wear face coverings on public transport – those were among the phase two changes announced by the first minister today.

The face mask rule applies to planes, buses and to public areas of ferry services. There will be exemptions especially for those who are not able to wear a face covering for specific medical reasons, and children under five will also be exempt.

Nicola Sturgeon also confirmed that an eagerly awaited freeing up of tourism was also likely to be announced in mid-July, when the next review of the regulations takes place.

But Sturgeon said that she would be seeking more scientific advice before announcing a re-opening of outdoor hospitality – like beer gardens – as there was evidence these could be coronavirus transmission hotspots.

Full information on phase two can be found on the Scottish Government website.

Sturgeon said that the crucial R number had been 0.6 to 0.9 over the past few weeks – less than one means the virus is in retreat – but that there had been two more deaths in Scotland overnight making a total of 2,264 since the pandemic began.

Sturgeon added: “The progress we have made to date is clear and substantial, but it has only been possible because of the efforts and sacrifices of people across Scotland.”

She added that continuation of a cautious approach to easing restrictions would reap benefits in the longer term and help suppress any future outbreaks.

As of today, people who are “shielding” will be allowed outside for exercise – apart from those in care homes – and can take part in non-contact activities like golf.

NHS Shetland chief executive Michael Dickson said the last three months have been difficult for everyone, but those who have been shielding have had it especially tough.

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“Shielding remains in place until July 31 because the risk of infection still exists. This will continue to be reviewed by the Scottish Government.

“The good news is that our interim chief medical officer, Dr Gregor Smith, has said that the prevalence of Covid-19 in Scotland is decreasing. It is for this reason that some of the shielding restrictions are being eased.”

From tomorrow people from one household can meet outside with people from two households, with no more than eight in a group and respecting social distancing and hand washing advice.

Playgrounds are set to re-open at the end of June.

Folk who are not shielding will also be allowed indoors to use toilets when visiting.

People in isolation like single parents or grandparents will also be allowed to form an “extended household” with one other family household where they can stay overnight. If a member of the group catches the virus they all will have to isolate.

Places of worship will reopen, but only for individual prayer.

From 29 June retail premises of all sizes will re-open but only if they have outdoor entrances and exits, meaning shops enclosed within shopping centres cannot re-open, but these should prepare, Sturgeon said.

Some indoor, non-office, workplaces will re-open but non-essential offices will remain closed.

From the same date the likes of playgrounds and outdoor sports courts will reopen but people should still not travel further than five miles for exercise.

Changes to health and public services have begun and will continue over the coming weeks, Sturgeon added, with public services gradually and safely scaling up.

“These key specific measures should provide a firm basis for taking further steps in the future,” she added.

The government is also seeking further expert advice on reducing social distancing though there are no plans to do so at the moment.

NHS Shetland chief Dickson, meanwhile, stressed that people still need to adhere to advice on social distancing and hygiene.

“We cannot lose sight of the risks the virus presents,” he said.

“For this reason we all have to keep washing our hands with soap and water, stick to social distancing (2m apart), maintain cough/sneeze hygiene and stay away from big groups.”

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