Echoing the statement by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday, Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has promised a phased and careful approach to easing lockdown restrictions while continuing to suppress coronavirus.
Unveiling an updated Strategic Framework, she said that it contains six tools that the Scottish Government will use to restore, on a phased basis, greater normality to everyday lives.
The Scottish Government’s priority is to suppress the virus to the lowest possible level and keep it there, while striving to return to a more normal life for as many people as possible.
The six main tools mentioned by Ms Sturgeon are:
- the quickest practical roll-out of Scotland’s vaccination programme;
- the most effective use of Test and Protect;
- applying proportionate protective measures (rules and guidance) to suppress transmission of the virus;
- effective measures to manage the risk of importation of the virus;
- supporting individuals, businesses and organisations to adhere to protective measures; and
- providing care and support to mitigate the harms of the crisis.
The full (94-page) text of the updated Strategic framework can be found here.
The way ahead
On the basis that progress in suppressing the virus and vaccinating key groups remains on track, restrictions would be eased in the following order:
- The next phase of school returns with the rest of the primary school years, P4 to P7, and more senior phase secondary pupils back in the classroom for part of their learning. The limit on outdoor mixing between households will increase to four people from a maximum of two households.
- The stay at home restriction will be lifted and any final school returns take place on 5 April. Communal worship will restart in limited numbers (mindful of the timing of major religious festivals). This phase would also see the re-opening of retail, starting with an extension of the definition of essential retail and the removal of restrictions on click-and collect.
- The third phase will see a return to a levels approach, with all of Scotland moving to at least level 3, with some possible adjustments. This could mean that, from 26 April, there will be a phased 'but significant' re-opening of the economy, including non-essential retail, hospitality and services including gyms and hairdressers.
There is likely to be a gap of at least three weeks between each easing of restrictions to assess the impact of changes, and to check that it is safe to proceed further using the conditions for safe easing set out by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The six conditions for safe easing are:
- Covid-19 transmission is under control;
- sufficient health systems and public health capabilities are in place;
- outbreak risks are minimised in vulnerable settings;
- workplace preventative measures are established;
- risk of imported cases are managed; and
- communities are fully engaged.
'The Strategic Framework is deliberately cautious at this stage but in the coming weeks, if the data allows and positive trends continue, we will seek to accelerate the easing of restrictions,' Ms Sturgeon said.
More detail will be set out in mid-March.
Ongoing financial support is set out in the Framework and will continue to be available to businesses as Scotland emerges from lockdown, the First Minister said.
This includes the ongoing commitment to fund the Strategic Framework Business Fund and to provide Level 4 payments for an additional month once businesses are moved down a level.
These proposals are however contingent on receipt of additional consequentials from the UK Government, the First Minister explained.
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