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Family visits and teachers back in schools: Scotland’s route out of coronavirus lockdown explained

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in Holyrood.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in Holyrood.

A phased easing of lockdown restrictions could begin by next Thursday.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon unveiled her route map out of the coronavirus lockdown on Thursday afternoon.

It’s good news for golfers, gardeners and canoeists but public gatherings, going out for a sit-down meal or nipping off to the pub are still some time away.

Cheers, but not just yet. Pubs will not open for a while.

Schools could reopen following the summer holidays on August 11, but this is entirely dependent on the virus being under better control.

There is light at the end of the tunnel, but it is imperative guidelines are adhered to when and where they appear, the government has said.

A test, trace, isolate, respond approach to the virus and introduction of phase one of the lockdown lift – if the R number remains below one between now and Thursday May 28 – is to come into effect.

The winding-up of lockdown restrictions will be phased, with the stipulations for each being able to begin becoming stricter and the requirement for disease control being greater.

The start of the next phase depends on how the previous one has gone. If a stipulation is missed, the next phase cannot start – like leaving too large a space between pieces in a falling row of dominoes.


Phase one – Earliest May 28

If, by May 28, the government is satisfied with how the R-number is sitting, then the following will start to happen:

Seeing family and friends: Members of one household will be able to meet with another, in a public space or garden with social distancing rules still in effect – like remaining two metres apart and not coming into contact with each other.

This will only be allowed outdoors and only in small groups, meaning public gatherings will still be banned.

Getting around: Businesses which can no longer accommodate working from home will be asked to stagger start times and encourage flexible working hours.

People could be allowed to meet with members of another household in places like Camperdown Park, provided social distancing remains in place.

People will be allowed to travel to outdoor places, like larger country parks, but within reason, the government has asked. People should also walk or cycle to these places if possible.

Schools: Staff will return to schools during phase one. Childminding services will be allowed to reopen, as well as fully-outdoor nursery schools.

This is to allow children of key-worker parents to be able to get into the classroom.

Special support units for children will be made available for those going into S1 or P1, to help with the transition.

Outdoor nurseries like this one in Duffus could reopen from next week.

Shopping and eating out: Garden centres will begin to open from next Thursday, with a gradual opening of drive-through restaurants also being allowed.

Cafes and restaurants will remain closed, even those in garden centres. Take-away will be encouraged.

Pubs will remain closed.

It will be a while before this dog gets to meet up with his pals at the pub.

Sport and exercise: Unlimited outdoor exercise will now be permitted, including non-contact sports like golf, outdoor swimming and hiking and canoeing.

Recycling centres for household waste will reopen, as well as court buildings and tribunals.

This will, hopefully, lead to a reduction in fly-tipping currently blighting country roads and hamlets.

A rise in fly-tipping incidents, like these in Lochgelly, Fife, have been blamed on the recycling centres being closed.

Construction: Restrictions on the construction industry will be lifted, along with other outdoor workplaces, in line with sectors’ own plans.

Building work near Linlathen, Dundee

Phase two – Earliest June 18

For phase two to kick-off, the R-number needs to have been consistently below one from today until the second review period – Thursday June 18.

As well as this, the six World Health Organisation criteria for easing restrictions have to be met.

These are:

  1. Evidence shows that Covid-19 transmission is controlled.
  2. Sufficient public health and health system capacities are in place to identify, isolate, test and treat all cases, and to trace and quarantine contacts.
  3. Outbreak risks are minimised in high-vulnerability settings, such as long-term care facilities (i.e. nursing homes, rehabilitative and mental health centres) and congregate settings.
  4. Preventive measures are established in workplaces, with physical distancing, hand-washing facilities and respiratory etiquette in place, and potentially thermal monitoring.
  5. Manage the risk of exporting and importing cases from communities with high-risks of transmission.
  6. Communities have a voice, are informed, engaged and participatory in the transition.

If phase two is allowed, then larger groups of friends and family can gather at a social distance in parks and outdoor spaces.

Bus services will likely increase, albeit with social distancing measures to prevent the virus spreading quickly.

Bus services will be increased during phase two.

People will still be encouraged to work from home where they can.

University and research laboratories will open for work again during the second phase, all things being considered well.

Those looking to move or buy a new home will find it easier, with restrictions on moving being eased.

Professional sport, including football, could kick-off in phase two should conditions be appropriate. Fans might not be able to pack out the stands, however, until phase four.

Tennis courts and playgrounds will start to be opened, with professional sport kicking-off in conjunction with advice from Public Health Scotland. This could be similar to what is currently happening in Germany, where the premier league has resumed, behind closed doors and with players not on the pitch being socially distanced.

Pub beer gardens will be given permission to open, as long as strict hygiene and distancing measures are adhered.

Beer gardens could be back in time for summer, but people will have to keep their distance.

Churches, mosques, synagogues and other places of worship will start to reopen, while registration offices are preparing to open to allow limited numbers of attendees for civil partnerships and weddings.

A wedding ceremony taking place at Glasgow city chambers registry office, conducted by registrar Fiona English.

Small retail units will be allowed to open, as well as outdoor markets.

Phase three – Earliest late July/early August.

It is important to note the Scottish Government has not confirmed dates, the timescales given are based on the three-week review schedule currently being employed for lock-down measures.

It is possible this could be increased, depending on how virus control is maintained, meaning phase three might not come into effect until much later.

For a transition to phase three, which the government has dubbed “feeling closer to normal”, the virus will have had to be suppressed, all six WHO stipulations (see above) met and control of the virus firmly in place.

By this stage, however, people will be allowed to visit other homes and, more importantly, go inside them.

Train and bus timetables should have returned to normal, albeit with distancing in place, and travelling to other local authority areas able to happen.

Schools will open from August 11, with universities seeing a phased return to campus buildings.

Limits on funeral attendances will be lifted to more than just close family, similarly for weddings and other receptions.

Gyms and hairdressers will be allowed to reopen.

Hotels, B&Bs and other holiday let restrictions will be lifted.

Pubs and restaurants can reopen, with social distancing measures in place. Museums and art galleries too.

Live events, like football matches and music concerts, will be subject to number limitations, but should be able to take place in phase three.


Phase four

Phase Four will see almost all restrictions lifted, in line with new hygiene and social measures being implemented as standard across the country.

It is likely a vaccine will have been produced and distributed before the country steps into phase four, with a warning it could be “many months”.