Sturgeon reveals further easing of lockdown after ‘clear and sustained progress’

A further easing of lockdown restrictions in Scotland has been confirmed as the country continues to make "clear and sustained progress" in tackling coronavirus.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced a number of measures similar to those already in place in England will come into effect in Scotland – with face masks to be made mandatory on public transport from Monday.

Some people will be able to meet another household indoors from Friday without physical distancing measures in place in an "extended household group arrangement".

The move, similar to the "bubbles" already in place in England, will apply to those people who live alone or who live only with children under the age of 18.

It will allow couples who do not live together and who have been separated by lockdown to be reunited – with overnight stays in these groups now permitted – and could also mean grandparents who live alone can see their grandchildren again.

Further changes announced as the First Minister confirmed Scotland has now moved into phase two of the four-part plan for lifting lockdown will mean non-shielding Scots can meet up with two households at the same time out of doors from Friday.

In addition, people can now go inside someone else's house to use the toilet – with the First Minister saying this change will "make family meetings a little bit more practical".

But she said the risk from coronavirus is "too high" at this stage to allow more meetings indoors.

Those who are shielding – who have been at home since lockdown began – are now allowed to go outside for exercise. From Friday, they can take part in non-contact outdoor sports, such as golf, and also meet people from one other household.

Dentists will be able to reopen from Monday, although only for "urgent care", while professional sport can resume behind closed doors and places of worship can reopen – but for individual prayer only.

Other changes will mean from June 29, non-essential shops can open again for business – provided they can be accessed directly from the street.

Ms Sturgeon said she cannot give the go-ahead for beer gardens and restaurants with outdoor areas to open just yet.

The Scottish Government has commissioned further advice on this, with the First Minister hoping to make an announcement "on or around July 2" over whether such businesses can reopen in phase two.

Coronavirus cases in Scotland
(PA Graphics)

The First Minister confirmed the R number – the rate at which the virus is spread – has been stable between 0.6 and 0.9 for the last three weeks.

The number of people estimated to be infectious with the disease has fallen from 19,000 to 2,900 over this period.

Ms Sturgeon said: "The progress we have made so far is therefore clear and substantial.

"The measures we have set out today are proportionate and cautious but they are also significant.

"They restart more of the economy, reopen more public services and allow us to see more of our family and friends."

She said this is the "biggest responsibility" she has faced, adding: "I will act responsibly, I will act carefully and I will act cautiously.

"We need to remain diligent and lift restrictions with care, that is what I am going to do."

We all understand the gravity of the health emergency caused by coronavirus not just here, but across the whole world.

But the ongoing economic and education emergency is getting worse with every day goes by, and this SNP government simply doesn't get it./1

— Jackson Carlaw MSP (@Jackson_Carlaw) June 18, 2020

Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw accused the First Minister of lacking ambition.

He said: "Scotland doesn't just need a plan to open back up, it needs a route map to recovery. It needs imagination, ambition and an open mind

"Children need a plan so they can get back to school, parents need a plan so they can get back to work, Scotland needs a plan so we can avoid a depression as great as any of us have ever seen."

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard urged the First Minister to come up with a detailed plan for return children to school full-time, instead of the "blended learning" model planned for August.

He said: "We need a proactive, comprehensive, forward-looking, planned, long-term approach for the whole Scottish economy."

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: "I do support caution, I also support a joined-up approach.

"But I'm afraid the route map and the guidance is not joined up. They are flawed."

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