Nicola Sturgeon eases coronavirus lockdown rules in Scotland
Nicola Sturgeon has announced people in Scotland will be allowed to meet friends outdoors, sunbathe and start shopping at garden centres from 28 May as she unveiled the slow easing of the lockdown.
The first minister told MSPs she wanted to see a suitably cautious lifting of some lockdown restrictions from next Thursday mirroring the relaxations already announced in other parts of the UK.
Sturgeon confirmed outdoor sports such as tennis and golf could restart next week and people could visit nearby parks and beauty spots. Outdoor cafes, recycling centres and drive-through restaurants will also be permitted to reopen as part of the four-step plan she outlined for easing the lockdown.
She said all Scotland’s schools would reopen from 11 August with a “blended model” of part-time teaching in school and at home, with teachers going back to school from June to start preparing their classrooms.
From June, children moving from primary school to secondary school this summer would also be given help with the transition to secondary school.
She added, however, that tight restrictions on allowing relatives and friends to gather at funerals, and the ban on bars and hairdressers from reopening, would not be relaxed for at least three weeks.
“The steps we will take are by necessity gradual and incremental – and they must also be matched with rigorous, ongoing monitoring of the virus,” Sturgeon told the Scottish parliament.
“There is no completely risk-free way of lifting lockdown. But we must mitigate the risks as much as possible. And we must not at any stage act rashly or recklessly. [If] we move too quickly or without proper care, it could run out of control again very quickly.”
She warned that the lockdown could be reimposed if the virus returned, and urged people in Scotland to continue observing all existing restrictions until the first relaxation began next Thursday.
Scotland is the last of the four parts of the UK to publish specific plans on easing the lockdown; the prime minister, Boris Johnson, did so on 10 May,with Wales and Northern Ireland already allowing outdoor sports, recycling centres and garden centres to restart.
The latest Scottish data on deaths in hospitals, intensive care cases and hospital admissions confirmed the gradual decline in the severity of the outbreak. While the number of deaths with confirmed Covid-19 climbed by 37 to 2,221, the number in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 fell by 125 to 1,318.
Sturgeon added that:
• Non-essential indoor shops, pubs and restaurants must remain closed for at least three weeks, with no date yet set for their reopening.
• The building trade would be allowed to slowly resume construction.
• Childminders could slowly resume work from next week, and all nurseries would resume slowly this summer.
• Universities in Scotland would reopen in September by combining remote learning with limited on-campus tuition.
Opposition parties broadly welcomed the phased approach but Jackson Carlaw, the Scottish Tory leader, said Sturgeon’s statement raised a series of questions about how it would work in practice. “Scotland is already on the move,” he said.
He urged Sturgeon to publish sector by sector plans and the clearest possible instructions on what was allowed. As the changes became more nuanced “so the need for clarity will be more urgent than ever”, he said.
Richard Leonard, the Scottish Labour leader, urged Sturgeon to publish all the evidence and advice she was using to make the decisions, to introduce an emergency plan for care homes, and maximise the test, trace and isolate programme she promised would start in late May.
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