Scotland to ease lockdown measures next week

By: AFP      Published: 10:57 PM, 21 May, 2020
Scotland to ease lockdown measures next week

 Scotland will begin "a careful easing" of coronavirus lockdown restrictions next week with the reopening of some outdoor activities after a "significant and sustained" reduction in cases, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Thursday.

"The time is right to move towards a careful easing of the lockdown restrictions," Sturgeon said as she announced that sports such as golf, tennis and fishing would be allowed from May 28, while people would be permitted to meet one other person from outside their household.

Travel restrictions will be eased for people to visit locations near their homes for recreation purposes. Outdoor businesses such as garden centres and construction sites will also reopen, although non-essential indoor shops, cafes and bars will remain closed.

The changes bring Scotland closer in line with the rest of Britain, which implemented a similar easing of restrictions last week. Sturgeon, who leads the devolved administration in Edinburgh, described as "catastrophic" Prime Minister Boris Johnson's decision to begin a partial lifting of lockdown measures in England last week.

But she said Thursday Scotland was now ready to take a "proportionate and cautious first step" due to the country's falling infection and death rate. Official data suggested that Scotland had now experienced three weeks of falling deaths and experts have "some confidence" that the R rate, which estimates the number of people each carrier infects, is now below 1.0.

The overall number of deaths in Scotland currently stands at 2,221, up 37 from Wednesday. The first phase of Sturgeon's plan will be implemented from May 28 and kept under review every three weeks, subject to "rigorous, ongoing" review of the scientific evidence about the spread of the virus.

Schools in Scotland, which has a separate education system, are scheduled to reopen from August 11, although there will be a "blended model" involving all pupils partly going into school and working from home, she told reporters. Johnson is currently facing opposition on safety grounds from teaching unions in England about plans to reopen schools to some pupils from June 1. Several local authorities across the country have already said they would not be able to reopen on that date.