Scots to be given go-ahead to travel further to visit family

Scots will be given the green light to visit family and friends in other parts of the country when coronavirus restrictions are eased next week, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

Motorway signage on the M80 at Banknock urging motorists to stay at home. Picture: PA

The First Minister clarified that guidance in the “route map” out of lockdown published on Thursday, which appeared to impose a five-mile limit on travel, would not be strictly enforced.

Stage one of the Government’s four-phase plan to lift lockdown is scheduled to begin on 28 May, with Scots then allowed to meet people from outside their own household, sunbathe and take part in some non-contact sports like golf.

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Lengthier trips may prove awkward as it will still be forbidden to go indoors, with only sitting in the garden allowed at a safe distance. It may present problems if the need arose to use toilet facilities.

The SNP leader sought to clarify the position after the route map said people would be allowed to drive to exercise or visit beauty spots, but suggested that excursions should be “broadly within five miles” of their home.

The policy led to confusion over whether people would be allowed to visit family and friends if they lived more than five miles away.

The SNP leader told yesterday’s daily coronavirus briefing the five-mile policy “will not be a strict limit, but it is a guide”, urging people to use their own judgment and keep in mind that they must not take risks with others’ health.

“We’re not intending to put a five-mile limit on the distance you can travel to, for example, sit with your parents in their garden. But we are asking you to use judgment,” she said.

“Increasingly as we come out of lockdown, I’m going to be relying more and more on you to exercise the good judgment that I know you will.

“If, for example, you travel a long distance to see a relative outside, you’ll be more likely to go inside the house to use the bathroom.”

She added: “We don’t want you to go inside others’ houses in this phase because if you are infectious, maybe without knowing it, you risk leaving the virus on surfaces inside the house.

“That would pose a risk to other people, particularly if you’re visiting elderly relatives. That is a risk we don’t want you to take.”

The First Minister said people whose parents lived so far away that it would be difficult to travel there and back in a day should consider waiting until further relaxation of the rules.

Giving the example of someone who lives in Glasgow but has relatives in Inverness, she said it was unlikely to be a sensible decision to attempt to see them after Thursday’s changes.

“We can’t legislate for every single individual circumstance ... but we will have to ask you to exercise judgment,” she said. “Remember, it’s all about protecting people you love.” But Ms Sturgeon stressed the lockdown message to “stay at home” remained in place this weekend.

She said: “We do need to stick with it for a few more days. Not all of the phase one measures will necessarily be introduced next Thursday, but I hope that most of them will be, or at least a day or two afterwards.”

Ms Sturgeon also clarified that after 28 May people would be able to spend time outside, while adhering to social distancing, with others from one other household at a time.

The First Minister also asked people to “use their judgement” when it came to activities in phase one.

She said people could travel to a relative’s home and spend time with them outside, but she warned against going inside in case they inadvertently leave the virus behind on surfaces.

Police Scotland Chief Constable Iain Livingstone said his officers would be “out and about” over the weekend explaining the lockdown rules and “as a last resort” enforcing the law.

He acknowledged the “frustrations and the fatigue” of the public during lockdown, and expressed his thanks for the adherence to the rules.

The First Minster also confirmed 2,245 patients had died after testing positive for coronavirus, up by 24 from 2,221 on Thursday.

And Ms Sturgeon said the “test and protect” strategy, which will be pivotal in helping suppress the virus during lockdown exit, remained on track.

She said Scotland could need to recruit more than the 2,000 contact tracers to help control coronavirus. The Scottish Government is “on track” to have 2,000 contact tracers in place by next month and 
“very close” to being able to process 15,000 tests for Covid-19 a day.

Contact tracers and a higher testing capacity are necessary as part of the Scottish Government’s test, trace and isolate approach, which is being brought in to try to curb the spread of the disease.

But Ms Sturgeon conceded more testing and tracers may be required, depending on “the requirements the virus places on us”.

The First Minister confirmed there were 660 contact tracers in place, with another 750 “at various stages of the appointment and training process”. She also said there had been around 25,000 expressions of interest for the roles.

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