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Emerging from lockdown will be 'a slow and careful process', Gail Ross warns

By Alan Hendry

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North MSP Gail Ross has warned that "stay home, save lives" will remain the key message as Scotland moves towards the next stages of easing the Covid-19 lockdown.

She was speaking today after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon outlined a Scottish Government route map setting out a gradual approach to easing the restrictions while still suppressing the virus.

The route map gives details of a four-phase move out of the current state of lockdown from next Thursday.

Ms Sturgeon warned that it would be under constant review and elements of each phase will not necessarily be relaxed at the same time.

Strict social distancing limitations remain in force but people can soon meet friends and family outside, while outdoor businesses and children’s nurseries will be able to reopen.

Non-contact outdoor activities in the local area – such as golf, hiking, canoeing, outdoor swimming and angling – will be “unrestricted” but the schools will not reopen to pupils yet, nor will the construction sector fully restart work.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced a route map towards emerging from the lockdown. Picture: Fraser Bremner / Scottish Daily Mail/PA Wire
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced a route map towards emerging from the lockdown. Picture: Fraser Bremner / Scottish Daily Mail/PA Wire

At the moment, the Scottish Government reviews the lockdown measures every three weeks and the next due date for that assessment is Thursday from which time phase one of the road map will be launched.

Mrs Ross, the SNP MSP for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross, said: “Today’s statement shows a clear route map for us all to follow to enable recovery and resuming ‘normal’ life. This is going to be a slow and careful process, but by working together and following the advice of the government and scientists we can minimise the risk to lives.

“There is no completely risk-free way of lifting lockdown. We must be very careful and there is a very real danger of a second wave later in the year.

"The message for all at present remains stay home, save lives, and that will be the case until it is safe to move on to the next stages of lifting lockdown.”

In phase one, every activity that is going to permitted will still have to be done while observing strict social distancing measures.

A plan agreed between councils, professional associations and parent representatives to reopen schools on August 11, subject to scientific advice that it is safe to do so, was also published.

Ms Sturgeon said: “I have set out details of Scotland’s route map through and out of the Covid-19 crisis.

“The current key public health guidance remains to stay at home except for essential purposes, but the route map provides information about how and when we might ease our lockdown restrictions while continuing to suppress the virus.

“The lockdown restrictions have been necessary to reduce and mitigate the massive harm caused by the Covid-19 virus, but the lockdown itself causes harm including loneliness and social isolation, deepening inequalities and damage to the economy. That is why I have set out the gradual and incremental phases by which we will aim to ease lockdown matched with careful monitoring of the virus.

“At every one of these stages, the biggest single factor in controlling the virus will be how well we continue to observe public health advice. Continued hand-washing, cough hygiene and physical distancing will continue to be essential as will wearing a face covering where appropriate.

“By doing the right thing, all of us have helped to slow the spread of the virus, to protect the NHS, and to save lives and as a result we are able – gradually, cautiously, and in phases – to plan our move towards a new normality.”

Jamie Stone, the Liberal Democrat MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, said: "I note that the First Minister said people will be able to travel – preferably on foot or by bike – but only for recreational activities. She added that people should stay home 'where possible' and remain within or close to their local area.

"One of the issues we have had in the Highlands is that the Scottish Government has not been entirely clear about what counts as legitimate travel. This has meant that several people have travelled to their second homes in the Highlands and risked spreading the virus.

"I will be asking Ms Sturgeon for further clarity about what constitutes remaining 'close to the local area'. If nothing else, I fear that these rules will be quite hard to police – the last thing we need in our Highland communities is more anxiety about what the travel rules actually mean and whether they really do apply to everyone.

"Today's announcement certainly raises more problems for me as an MP. Last night, the Tories voted to end virtual parliament. I don't see how I am supposed to get to Westminster without flouting the Scottish Government's instructions. It's an issue I will have to continue wrestling with over the next week.

"Regardless of whether I am at home or in London, I continue to urge constituents to contact me so I can do everything I can to help them as we embark on this tricky road to recovery."

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