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Lockdown easing

Sturgeon urges caution as NI and England reopen

Prince St retail shopping

Shops are still waiting for an opening date

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon urged caution ahead of a slow resumption of work, stating that “I will not be doing anyone any favours by going too fast.”

She said she was “optimistic” that the country would go into the next phase of the route map soon and that “if we can accelerate any of the easing of the restrictions we will do that.”

She said that, “at least in part”, more of the coronavirus lockdown measures will be eased at the next formal review on 18 June, without giving firm dates on when shops and pubs will reopen.

Ms Sturgeon was responding to questions concerning the demands of businesses to speed up the return to work and avoid the prospect of big job losses. Crieff Hydro Hotel group warned at the weekend that 241 jobs were at risk.

“My heart breaks for family businesses that have invested over many years. It is absolutely devastating,” she said at yesterday’s media briefing.

“But if we get things wrong we risk setting ourselves back.”

Ms Sturgeon said the virus is “in retreat” but warned that the country remains at a “critical juncture” in the battle against the pandemic.

The second phase of Scotland’s exit from lockdown could involve shops reopening if their floorspace is no more than 80 square metres, with physical distancing and hygiene measures in place.

We have to take decisions at a pace that is right for Scotland and in a way that doesn’t risk a resurgence of the virus

– Nicola Sturgeon

Ms Sturgeon said: “I would hope that we will move into the next phase of the route map out of lockdown and that will include some move around small retail in particular.

“These are assessments that are ongoing. We have to take decisions at a pace that is right for Scotland and in a way that doesn’t risk a resurgence of the virus.

“But I very much hope if we continue to see the progress we are now reporting on a daily basis, that the move into the next phase will be possible when I come to give that review on Thursday.”

Ms Sturgeon said a second consecutive day with no new deaths in Scotland is “very encouraging”.

She added: “I can’t tell you how long I have waited to be able to report such a development.”

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However, businesses continue to be frustrated by a lack of clarity on planned dates for reopening.

David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium said ministers in Belfast have confirmed that from Friday shops will be able to re-open in Northern Ireland. From 15 June shops in England will be able to re-start.

“Yet there is still no indicative let alone firm dates for shops in Scotland to be able to re-open.

“Whilst retailers in Northern Ireland and England are in the enviable position of knowing when they are able to re-open, shopkeepers here in Scotland in contrast are in the dark and don’t have an indicative let alone a firm timetable to work towards,” he said.

“What Scots retailers want most of all is to get back to trading, looking after customers and providing the goods and services we all need and want.

“Shops have been working hard to get ready to open safely, putting in place the necessary social distancing and hygiene measures to protect customers and staff. 

“Whenever that day comes retail will be ready to play its part in getting Scotland’s economy moving again.Retail can be a springboard for the economy to bounce back, but it must be able to open.”

The UK government insists it is still working towards early July as the possible date for reopening pubs and restaurants amid reports that restrictions will be eased on 22 June.

The Financial Times reported that some ministers wanted an earlier start. However, the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) has cautioned about pubs being ready to reopen at short notice.

It wants the government to allow all pubs to open from the original target date of 4 July and said the 27,000 UK pubs with outdoor space should be the first to be allowed to open their doors.

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