Meeting loved ones to take priority over economy in lockdown exit

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MEETING up safely with loved ones again is set to be prioritised over re-opening the economy when Nicola Sturgeon announces her new strategy for easing the lockdown tomorrow.

Scotland is set to return to the tiered level restrictions that were in place last year once it is safe to remove the ‘stay at home’ lockdown across the whole of the country, the First Minister has suggested.

The First Minister indicated that the full lockdown will be lifted “in uniform across the areas that are subject to level 4” rules – before decisions will be made on a more local levels as to whether some or all parts of Scotland could then move into tier 3.

Speaking at her daily coronavirus briefing, the First Minister warned the public they are “going to have to be patient for some of this”, responding to calls from different sectors of the economy for their trade to be prioritised and allowed to resume.

Ms Sturgeon said her announcement on Tuesday would give indications of the phasing of the easing of restrictions, but warned she will not provide firm dates for re-opening.

She said: “We will seek to set out tomorrow an indicative order of priority and the likely phasing of firstly the gradual lifting of the current lockdown restrictions and then in due course, a return to the geographic levels system when we would decide whether all or parts of the country may move out of level 4 and into level 3, and of course that’s the part where more parts of the economy will start to open up.

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“This will be a cautious way forward because it’s really important that as we come out of this lockdown, we do so sustainably.”

Ms Sturgeon said that the Scottish Government’s “top priorities” are getting children back into classrooms and relaxing care home visiting.

She added: “Beyond that, I think people want to be able to see their loved ones – that may be outdoors before it is indoors.”

The First Minister stressed that “when we think we can move back into the levels system”, it is possible “the whole country may be able to come down to level 3 again or we may be able to take parts of the country down to level 3”.

She added: “That’s when more economic opening up might be possible. We are going to have to be patient here.

“We’ve come this far and it’s been really, really horrendously difficult for everybody – some more than others. It would really be the wrong thing to do to come this far on suppression after the second national lockdown, particularly with the vaccination programme going so well, and ease up too quickly right now and send ourselves back the way.

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“The more sensible and cautious we are right now, the more sustainable these easings will be.”

Ms Sturgeon stressed that it was important the economy doesn’t re-open too soon or we will be faced with “very quickly heading back into a situation where we are tightening up again”.

When pressed about giving hospitality and other industries an idea of when they could re-open, Ms Sturgeon warned she was “not going to give people false hope”.

She added: “We’re dealing with a slightly different beast than we were when we come out of lockdown the first time because of this new variant that is so much more infectious and spreads so much more quickly.

“That means we do have to be a little bit more cautious. I want to get hotels, restaurants, pubs, everything opened up as quickly as possibly just like everybody else does.“

But the First Minister added that there is a need to ease restrictions for businesses when “we’ve got a reasonable prospect of keeping them open” and result in traders “not then going to be faced with having to shut them down again just a few months down the road”.

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