Scotland is gradually opening up. People queued yesterday to get into shops on the first day that non-essential retailers reopened their doors. In the latest easing of lockdown rules, retail outlets with on-street access and some workplaces like factories, warehouses, laboratories and research facilities have reopened, provided that social distancing measure are in place. Healthcare providers like optometry practices have started seeing patients in person.
Playgrounds, outside sports courts and outdoor markets are now able to open and local access is now available to zoos and safari parks, including Edinburgh Zoo where tickets must be purchased in advance. From this Friday, the restrictions that have limited travel to no more than five miles for leisure or recreation will be relaxed. In less than a week, the use of self-contained holiday accommodation – such as cottages, lodges and caravans with no shared services – will also be allowed, as will the use of second homes. Next Monday, pubs and restaurants will be able to open outdoor spaces, such as beer gardens.
It is important to remember that social distancing advice remains in place. Too many people already seem to think that the rules don’t apply to them when out shopping, cycling, jogging or being out amongst other people. Just as a minority recently disregarded laws on littering on the Meadows and elsewhere, there seems to be a group that simply doesn’t care or think about the consequences of their actions.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is right to stress that we all need to act responsibly: “If you plan on visiting shops today, please do so responsibly. Maintain physical distancing, follow hygiene advice, wear a face covering and respect staff who may be asking you to shop differently. We’ve made so much progress against the virus – let’s not squander it.”
If we continue to beat coronavirus, we can look forward to an announcement by Nicola Sturgeon next week that Scotland can enter the third phase of the route map out of lockdown. This will involve being able to meet extended groups outdoors and two other households indoors. By the middle of July, non-essential shops in shopping centres could open, as well as hairdressers and barbers, pubs and restaurants on a limited basis, as well as holiday accommodation, museums, galleries, cinemas, monuments and libraries. This is hugely encouraging and exciting for all of us who are longing for a return to the “new normal”.
However, we need to be aware of the dangers. In recent days, there have been pandemic spikes in different nations, including England, where restrictions could be extended in Leicester for two weeks. In Texas, daily infections have rocketed from 2000 to 5000. Having recently relaxed restrictions, Texas, Arizona and Florida are now reimposing them. In China, the authorities have imposed strict lockdown restrictions on 400,000 people in Hebei province near Beijing after an outbreak. Scotland has reduced Covid-19 deaths and new cases to record low levels because the Scottish Government has prioritised the health of the public and the public has followed the advice. Following weeks and months of lockdown we are now able to ease restrictions and begin restoring the economy.
It is critical for businesses of all sizes to begin operating again, avoid bankruptcy and protect hundreds of thousands of jobs. The last thing we now need is to endanger all of the efforts by acting irresponsibly.
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