Nicola Sturgeon maps out Scotland's plans for easing coronavirus lockdown measures

5 May 2020, 15:19

Nicola Sturgeon has mapped out Scotland's plan for easing
Nicola Sturgeon has mapped out Scotland's plan for easing. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Nicola Sturgeon has outlined plans to relax coronavirus lockdown restrictions in Scotland including gradually allowing children to return to school.

The first minister revealed the Scottish government's Framework for Decision Making while speaking at her daily Covid-19 press briefing.

Among the measures being considered are allowing some children to return to schools and relaxing rules on both daily exercise and meeting friends.

However, Ms Sturgeon said lifting the lockdown will not be like "flipping a switch" but will instead be a gradual process.

She explained that Scotland's R rate - the number of people infected by each person who has the virus - is still slightly higher than the rest of the UK's, which is why lifting restrictions must be done slowly.

An estimated 26,000 people in the nation are currently infectious.

The first minister said the measures the Scottish government are considering include:

- Changing advice on spending time outdoors to allow exercise more than once a day
- A slight relaxation of the rules to allow "meeting up with small defined groups" of people, even if initially only outdoors
- Resuming some NHS and community care services
- Carefully, gradually and safely allowing businesses to reopen but insisting on home working where possible for the near future
- Allowing some children, such as those at transition points of education or studying for exams, to return to school

While Ms Sturgeon said ministers are working towards "careful and gradual changes" to the lockdown restrictions, she also stressed this will only happen "when we judge it is safe to make them, which I am afraid is not right now".

Current restriction measures are due to be reviewed on Thursday, but the first minister said it is "highly unlikely" any significant changes will be made at this time.

She warned changes could "quickly see transmission of the virus increase again."

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Ms Sturgeon said charts based on data from Denmark show that if Scotland fully reopens its nurseries and primary schools now "the most likely scenario would be a resurgence in the virus which would overwhelm our hospital capacity in a matter of weeks".

She added: "The hard fact is we must see further restrictions in new cases, hospital and ICU admissions and deaths to be sure the overall level of infection and the R number are lower than they are now.

"That means for the moment we do need to stick with the current lockdown restrictions."

She said the "severity of restrictions we are living under" cannot continue indefinitely.

A total of 1,620 patients have now died in Scotland after testing positive for coronavirus, up 44 from 1,576 on Monday.

The first minister announced 12,437 people have tested positive for the virus in the country, up by 171 from 12,266 the day before.