Scotland’s Deputy First Minister has stressed the need for personal responsibility as Scotland is expected to enter the first phase of a “route map” out of lockdown.
John Swinney addressed Holyrood’s Covid-19 Committee on Thursday ahead of the expected announcement by the First Minister that coronavirus has been sufficiently suppressed to start easing restrictions.
Mr Swinney told MSPs that Scottish Government messaging should push the public into thinking about the implications of their actions, with the possibility of lockdown measures being reimposed if the virus beings to take hold again.
While refusing to pre-empt Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement, her deputy said “some very strong elements of constraint” will remain as the first phase is entered.
Last week, Ms Sturgeon announced plans for a four-phase emergence from lockdown as she eyed Thursday as the possible first step – provided the suppression of the virus continued.
In the first phase, it is expected people will be able to meet one other household while outside, as long as social distancing is adhered to, as well as taking part in some outdoor, non-team sports and resuming open-air jobs.
Some personal responsibility will also have to be taken by the public, Mr Swinney said, adding: “I accept that if the message in lockdown is ‘only leave home if you have one of a very, very small number of very good reasons to do so’, that is an easier message to secure public compliance and adherence with to a message which enables a bit more freedom for individuals.
“What we have to encourage people to do, as part of the Government’s messaging, is to think about the implications for themselves of not complying with the direction of travel which we are setting out.
“If we don’t comply, we’ll be back here – as I answered (Labour MSP) Monica Lennon – reapplying new constraints and we will be dealing with a deeper health crisis within our society than we have already dealt with over the last 10 weeks or so.”
Earlier in the session, Mr Swinney warned the committee, in response to a question from Ms Lennon, that a “more cautious” approach will be taken should the reproduction rate of the virus – the R number – rise to between 0.8 and 1.1 compared to the current estimate of between 0.7 and one.
Responding to a question from Tory MSP Adam Tomkins, Mr Swinney said: “As we move from lockdown to phase one, we’re most definitely not moving into a free-for-all.
“We will be maintaining some of the very strong elements of constraint that are in lockdown.”
He added: “That’s the first point I want to reassure Mr Tomkins about, we’re not moving from constraint into free activity in one bound.”
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