Covid lockdown timetable: Nicola Sturgeon and Boris Johnson both caution they will be led by 'data, not dates' and we should take heed – Scotsman comment

Nicola Sturgeon has adopted a more cautious approach than Boris Johnson during the Covid pandemic, but the differences between their strategies in dealing with this terrible virus have sometimes been exaggerated, sometimes for political reasons.

Both Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon said they would be led by 'data, not dates' as they set out tentative plans to ease the Covid lockdown (Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire)

And this week, as they announced plans to ease the current lockdown restrictions, the two leaders used the same phrase, saying they would be led by “data, not dates” when making decisions about the re-opening of the economy.

Johnson’s four-step plan could see shops, hairdressers and gyms re-open on 12 April and all legal limits on social contact lifted by 21 June, but only if strict conditions are met.

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The First Minister said the system of lockdown levels for different areas would return from the last week of April, from which “we would expect to see phased but significant re-opening of the economy, including non-essential retail, hospitality and services like gyms and hairdressers". But, again, she cautioned that meeting this tentative timetable would depend on the state of the virus.

We are all desperate for dates, for a time to look forward to, and both leaders are, to a degree, giving us what we want.

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However, there is also a warning to anyone thinking our troubles are behind us in that phrase “data, not dates”. These announcements are a sign of hope, but only if we continue to follow the rules.

With political leaders from such radically opposed parties as the SNP and the Conservatives singing from the same hymn sheet on this point, that should remove some of the politics from the debate about how quickly we should leave lockdown.

There definitely should be a debate and one that considers economic issues, the effects of social isolation and other considerations beyond the number of infections but, in the end, that is the decisive factor.

Protecting the lives of its citizens is the most important job of any government and, on that fundamental idea, our SNP and Conservative governments have been united. They may have made mistakes, but they have been trying to do their best, for all the wild claims of their most intransigent political opponents.

And we the public also need to continue to do our best to hasten the happy day when all this is finally behind us.

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