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Business awaits guidance

Sturgeon to unveil four-phase plan to ease lockdown

Nicola Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon: ‘gradual process’

Nicola Sturgeon will today outline a four-phase route map for easing the lockdown measures.

More outdoor activities will be allowed, such as golf and fishing, while garden centres and recycling facilities may open and some outdoor work could begin again.

Businesses will be looking for guidance on a return to work and the First Minister is likely to outline measures allowing more outdoor work to restart. This may be good news for housebuilders and other construction workers who have already returned to work in England.

The hospitality, tourism and retail industries will be awaiting any measures that will allow for bars, restaurants, hotels and visitor attractions to reopen amid new data showing they are among the hardest hit with tens of thousands of jobs already lost.

Ms Sturgeon will acknowledge that the lockdown is only sustainable with Government support, including the job retention scheme, and this will need to be in tandem with the UK government unless Scotland is given a special extension to cover an extended period.

It is almost certain that office workers and others who can work from home will be encouraged to continue working remotely.

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People from different households will be allowed to meet outdoors and Ms Sturgeon is likely to indicate a reopening of schools, though not until the new term is due to begin in August. Schools in England may open next month, but the English school term normally runs until the end of July and restarts in September.

But in all cases strict social distancing guidelines will remain in place. The First Minister will insist that winding down the lockdown policy will be a gradual process and will be assessed every three weeks. She will stress a need to reduce the R number – the rate at which the virus is spread to others.

She will be encouraged that the number who are dying with coronavirus in Scotland has been falling in recent weeks, as has the number of patients needing hospital treatment and intensive care.

Ms Sturgeon has already said restrictions could start to be eased from 28 May 28, when the lockdown is next due for review – but only if measures to suppress Covid-19 continue to be successful.

Figures published on Wednesday showed Scotland’s weekly coronavirus death toll had fallen for the third week in a row, with National Records of Scotland revealing there were 332 deaths relating to the disease registered between May 11-17.

Speaking about the future lifting of restrictions, the First Minister stressed: “This will be a very gradual process as we monitor how changing behaviour affects the infection rate and we will only be able to move toward easing more restrictions if we continue to work together to suppress the virus.”

She added: “Protecting lives will continue to be our number one priority – and I am confident that people across Scotland will continue to pull together in this national endeavour as we return to some kind of normality.

We have listened to the views of people and organisations in Scotland, and have been guided by the latest scientific advice

– Nicola Sturgeon

“At all stages in this process, we have listened to the views of people and organisations in Scotland, and have been guided by the latest scientific advice – and that approach will continue going forward.”

She said the route map was based on guidance set out by the World Health Organisation, as well as the experience of other countries as they have eased their lockdown, combined with “what we have learned about the impact of Covid-19 in Scotland”.

Easing of restrictions will continue to be assessed alongside any sign of the virus returning.

cars

Car use is rising on trunk roads (pic: Terry Murden)

However, the public is becoming increasingly restless and businesses are warning that a prolonged shutdown will be extremely damaging. Improving weather is also encouraging more people to go outdoors and to travel.

Car use has increased by more than a third since the lockdown began with more lorries also on the roads.

New figures show there are 35% more cars and 10% more HGV vehicles. Over the past week, car and HGV traffic has both increased by 10% compared to the previous week.

Walking and cycling levels are 30% and 50% higher respectively compared to the lockdown baseline, although both fell compared to the previous week despite people being permitted to undertake unlimited exercise from Monday 11 May.

There has been an increase in concessionary bus travel of around 10% over the nine weeks of lockdown. Travel by those aged over 70 continues to account for most of the increase.

Overall, concessionary bus travel by the 70+ age group has increased by around 30% compared to the lockdown baseline – this equates to 3,400 extra journeys per day. Week on week, this is around a 5% increase compared to last week.

For Rail, overall travel is around 50% less compared to the lockdown baseline.

For ferry traffic, there is an increase of 20% reported in passenger carryings over the past week compared to the lockdown baseline. 

Air traffic managed over Scotland is around 10% less compared to the lockdown baseline.

Comment: Sturgeon needs to avoid the jobs dam bursting



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