What are the new Covid-19 lockdown measures in Scotland, and how do they differ from England?

Scotland’s tentative journey out of lockdown will continue tomorrow as the nation enters phase two of the Scottish Government’s route map out of the crisis.

A passenger walks past a sign at the entrance to Glasgow Central Station as Scotland continues to lift coronavirus lockdown measures.
A passenger walks past a sign at the entrance to Glasgow Central Station as Scotland continues to lift coronavirus lockdown measures.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has described the next steps as “proportionate and cautious, but also significant,” reasoning that they will help to restart other areas of the faltering economy, while allowing people to see more of family and friends.

But some of the anticipated phase two changes detailed in the overall route map last month have not come to pass, while other measures have been brought in. The shift also highlights difference - and similarities - between the approaches of Scotland’s devolved administration, and that of the UK government.

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So what is changing, and how closely aligned will Scotland and England be in tackling the Covid-19 pandemic while continuing on the road to recovery?

Nicola Sturgeon has described the phase two lockdown measures as proportionate, cautious, and significant.
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PHYSICAL DISTANCING

Ms Sturgeon revealed that while the two metre physical distancing rule remains in place for now, she has asked for expert advice on whether there might be “particular settings and circumstances” where it might be possible to reduce that to one metre or one-and-half-metres. An update is expected in around a fortnight’s time.

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Public Health England recommends people try to keep two metres away from people as a precaution. However, it is not a rule and the UK government says the “key thing is to not be too close to people for more than a short period of time, as much as you can.”

At the start of the week, Boris Johnson commissioned a review of the two metre margin, having said there was “margin for manoeuvre.” It is understood the review will be concluded by 4 July.

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MEETING FAMILY AND FRIENDS

In Scotland, people who are not shielding will now be able meet up with as many as two households outside, albeit with a limit of eight people overall, and the continued need for physical distancing. Those visiting friends or family in a private garden will also be permitted to use their toilet indoors.

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Certain household types can now meet others indoors in what the Scottish Government refer to as an ‘extended household’. Under its definition, someone who lives alone - or someone who lives only with children under 18 - can agree with another household to form an ‘extended household’ and be treated as being part of that household.

In England, everyone is allowed to spend time outdoors with groups of up to six people from outside their household or support bubble. Up to six people from different households are able to meet up while maintaining social distancing.

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The restrictions are tighter for indoor meetings. Only those who live alone - or are a single parent - are able to form a support bubble with one another household, enabling them to spend time together inside each other’s homes, without the need to stay two metres apart.

SHIELDING

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Those shielding in Scotland are still advised to minimise their chance of catching Covid-19 until at least 31 July, but as of Friday, updated government advice allows them to meet up outside with one other household in a group of up to eight people, with physical distancing in place.

The new guidance also gives them the greenlight to take part in non-contact outdoor activities, such as golf, fishing, and hiking, as long as strict physical distancing is maintained.

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In England, members of the shielding group can spend time outdoors with members of their own household, or if they live alone, with one person from another household. There is no specific advice around outdoor recreational activities.

EDUCATION

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Ms Sturgeon reiterated that while her government had no higher priority than restoring full-time education, the blended learning contingency model would be in place “if and for as long as that is necessary” to maximise the time children spend in school. She said the government would also be working to “create the conditions” and “put in place the protections” to allow children to return to school full-time, and a “normal basis,” as soon as possible.

While the blended model - a mix of in-school and at-home learning - is set to be in place when schools reopen in Scotland on 11 August, the situation is less clear in England, where Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been forced to U-turn on his goal of ensuring all primary school children in should be back in class for a month before the summer holiday. On Thursday, culture secretary Oliver Dowden told the UK government’s daily briefing that he wanted to ensure all schools in England go back in September.

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SHOPS

In Scotland, retail premises of all sizes - provided they have outdoor entrances and exits - along with outdoor markets will be able to open as of 29 June - with social distancing and hygiene measures in place - to join essential stores such as supermarkets, pharmacies, petrol stations and garden centres.

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Those shops able to reopen should have queue management systems in place, and remove any unnecessary street furniture. The government is also consulting on whether it should the wearing of face coverings by shoppers should be mandatory, with an update expected before the end of the month.

However, larger retail units and likes of hairdressers and beauty salons will not open until the third phase of lockdown. Non-essential outlets in shopping centres will also remain closed until phase three.

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In England, people are able to visit any type of shop as of 15 June, although some businesses, such as hairdressers, will not reopen until the third step of the exit strategy.

PUBS AND RESTAURANTS

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Despite anticipation that pubs and restaurants in Scotland with sufficient outdoor spaces would be able to reopen for customers for the first time since March, Ms Sturgeon said she was unable to give a date for when that might happen.

Further advice from the scientific advisory group has been commissioned, and it may remain the case that the likes of beer gardens will be able to reopen at some point in phase two. It is anticipated an update will be provided on or around 2 July.

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The UK government’s Covid-19 recovery strategy document states that pubs, bars and restaurants could start to reopen "no earlier than 4 July" if safety guidelines can be met. However, there has been little in the way of further updates, with no indication of whether the planned reopening will include indoor spaces.

WORKPLACES

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Home working “should still be the norm,” according to Ms Sturgeon, but a range of easing measures are scheduled to come into place as of 29 June. They will allow indoor, non-office workplaces such as factories, labs, and warehouses to reopen once relevant guidance is implemented, with physical distancing in place. However, other indoor workplaces, such as non-essential offices and call centres, will not reopen until the third phase of Scotland’s exit strategy.

In England, employers are also asked to continue to allow staff to work from home if possible, but a far wider range of workplaces hae been allowed to reopen, with sector-specific advice issued by the UK government.

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PUBLIC TRANSPORT

As revealed by The Scotsman on Wednesday, dace coverings will be mandatory on public transport in Scotland as of Monday, including private taxis. Ms Sturgeon said this measure reduced the risk of the transmission of the virus, and although not an “absolute safeguard,” also helped individuals from catching the virus.

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The measure excludes children under five, people with breathing difficulties, and those with physical conditions which make it difficult to keep a mask in place. It will not apply to drivers of vehicles who are already protected by a shield of some kind.

Public transport services will increase over the second phase, including increased ferry services and capacity. In general, however, public transport capacity will remain constrained due to physical distancing requirements.

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Face coverings have been mandatory on all public transport in England from 15 June, with bus, train, and tram services all ramped up from 4 June.

CARE HOMES

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Under the new phase in Scotland, consideration will be given to a phased resumption of visits to care homes, starting with outdoor visiting, where it is clinically safe to do so. However, no definitive timescale has been set.

As in England, family and friends are advised not to visit care homes, except for next of kin in exceptional situations such as end of life. The UK government is currently reviewing its guidance.

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WEDDINGS

The new phase allows for marriages and civil partnerships to take place in Scotland, albeit in outdoor settings and with "minimal number of attendees.”

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Weddings are still not permitted in England. Communities secretary Robert Jenrick has said an announcement on small, socially distanced ceremonies will be announced soon.

FUNERALS

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The guidance remains in Scotland that the number of people should be kept the minimum possible, and that people should only attend the funeral of a member of your household, a close family member or, in the event that no relative or household member is attending the funeral, that of a close friend.

The situation is near identical in England, save for the classification of those in a support bubble as household members, a change which came into force on 13 June.

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PLACES OF WORSHIP

Under the new phase, churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, and other places of worship across Scotland will be able to open for individual prayer, with physical distancing and hygiene safeguards in place. No communal worship is allowed, and Ms Sturgeon said it “may be some time” before large religious gatherings are permitted. The same has been allowed in England since 13 June.

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HEALTHCARE

More health services, including GP services and practices, will become available in Scotland. Dental practices can re-open to see patients with urgent care needs from Monday. Optometry practices will reopen for emergency and essential services from 29 June.

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In line with the NHS mobilisation plan, there will also be a phased resumption of some screening services, and urgent referrals and triage of routine services.

In England, a roadmap was set out on 14 May to safely bring back routine operations.

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PROFESSIONAL SPORT

In Scotland, professional sport can resume, with public health restrictions remaining in place, from Monday.

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The Department of Culture, Media, and Sport has allowed the safe resumption of competitive sport behind closed doors from 1 June.

OUTDOOR ATTRACTIONS

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Zoos, playgrounds, garden attractions, and outdoor sport centres in Scotland will be able to reopen from 29 June, although people should not travel more than five miles in order to visit one of them, and tickets should be bought in advance.

The likes of zoos, safari parks, and drive-in cinemas have been able to reopen in England from 15 June, but playgrounds and outdoor gyms remain off limits.

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CORE MESSAGING

The Scottish Government’s advice will change from ‘Stay home, protect the NHS, and save lives’ to ‘Stay safe, protect others, and save lives’. The shift, said Ms Sturgeon, recognised that although the virus is being suppressed, it has not gone away, and remains dangerous to many.

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The overarching UK government message remains ‘Stay alert, control the virus, save lives’.

NEXT REVIEW

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The Scottish Government will provide an update on any changes to phase two measures, chiefly the reopening of outdoor pubs and restaurants, on 2 July. A review of a possible move into the third phase of the lockdown exit strategy will be held on 9 July.

The UK government has extended the time between lockdown reviews to four weeks instead of three, meaning the next assessment will take place on 25 June.

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Joy Yates

Editorial Director

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