Sturgeon announces widespread lifting of Scottish lockdown restrictions
Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced a comprehensive easing of lockdown restrictions in the country, with pubs, restaurants, hairdressers and holiday accommodation allowed to reopen from July 15.
Beer gardens will be able to run from a slightly earlier date of July 6, while Scottish citizens will be able to meet with members of two other households indoors from as early as July 10.
The changes largely resembled those announced for England by prime minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday. Echoing Johnson’s words, Sturgeon warned that the easing of restrictions remained reversible pending the spread of coronavirus but said that the relaxing of rules had been made possible by “real sustained progress” in preventing the virus’ spread.
The new rules in Scotland do not apply to vulnerable individuals who have been shielding, with further guidance to be issued to such people before the end of July.
A key driver in Holyrood’s decision to ease restrictions has been seen in official data, which indicates that the Covid-19 death rate has been in decline for eight consecutive weeks.
Unlike in England, the two-metre social distancing rule will remain in place in Scotland for the time being, with any relaxing of such guidelines still under review.
Elsewhere in Holyrood’s plan, shopping centres and dentists will be able to fully reopen from July 13. Museums, galleries, cinemas and libraries will be able to resume business on July 15.
The reopening of premises depends entirely on whether they can adhere to Covid secure guidelines and keep social distancing in place.
As is the case in England, nightclubs and indoor gyms have not yet been allowed to reopen.
Sturgeon said: "The sacrifices that have been made have suppressed the virus, protected the NHS and undoubtedly saved a significant number of lives."
She conceded that the pace of the easing of restrictions was lagging behind compared with England, but urged Scottish citizens not to become complacent and reiterated that any leniency depended on the spread of the virus.
Stressing the need to not become involved in a “reckless race” to return to normality, Sturgeon said: "Our challenge, not an easy one, is to manage all of this change while keeping the virus firmly under control. If at any stage there appears to be a risk of its resurgence, our path out of lockdown will be halted and we may even have to go backwards.
"To avoid that, we must get as close as possible to elimination of the virus now, and build confidence in our ability to control it in future through surveillance, testing, contact tracing and, where necessary, targeted suppression measures."
However, the Scottish Conservatives have been critical of Holyrood’s decision not to lift restrictions in tandem with Westminster, saying that it will “cost millions at a time when thousands of jobs are already on the line”.