Nicola Sturgeon to unveil four phase route map to get Scotland restarted

Nicola Sturgeon will today unveil plans for a four-phase “route map” detailing Scotland’s exit from coronavirus lockdown after deaths from the virus fell for the third week in a row.

The strategy is based on World Health Organisation (WHO) advice and experience of other countries which have emerged from lockdown, with the first phase of eased measures poised to be given the green light as early as next week.

If continued progress is seen in suppressing the virus north of the Border over the next week, the plan will confirm the first phase of easing restrictions will start from 28 May.

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Within a few days of that, ministers will be looking to allow more outdoor activity – such as being able to sit in the park and to meet up outdoors with someone from another household, as long as social distancing rules are followed.

Police speak with members of the public as they enjoy the hottest day of the year in Edinburgh. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Some limited outdoor sporting activities, like golf and fishing, may also be allowed, along with the opening of garden centres and recycling facilities and the resumption of some outdoor work.

The move comes after official figures published by National Records of Scotland (NRS) yesterday showed weekly deaths fell by 83 to 332 in the seven days up to last Sunday. That seven-day figure is almost half the death rate reported three weeks earlier. Hospital cases are also continuing to stabilise.

Scotland has adopted a more cautious approach than south of the Border to easing restrictions, but Ms Sturgeon will today unveil her plan to get the country restarted during an address to MSPs at Holyrood around noon.

“We hope to shortly be ready to start easing the lockdown restrictions and today’s route map will outline how we can do that,” the First Minister said ahead of the document’s publication.

Nicola Sturgeon will unveil the route map out of lockdown today

“At all stages in this process we have listened to the views of people and organisations in Scotland, and have been guided by the latest scientific advice – and that approach will continue going forward.

“Today’s document is based on the guidance set out by the World Health Organisation and the experience of other countries as they have eased their lockdown, as well as what we have learned about the impact of Covid-19 in Scotland. This will be a very gradual process as we monitor how changing behaviour affects the infection rate and we will only be able to move toward easing more restrictions if we continue to work together to suppress the virus.

“Protecting lives will continue to be our number one priority – and I am confident that people across Scotland will continue to pull together in this national endeavour as we return to some kind of normality.”

The route map will set out a four-phase move out of the existing state of lockdown. Progress through each phase will be assessed every three weeks.

This will include the order in which ministers at Holyrood will gradually seek to lift restrictions and cover areas like the return of schools and firing up economic activity.

The latest figures yesterday took the total number of deaths from the virus in Scotland to 3,546 under the NRS measurement, which includes all cases where Covid-19 is registered on a death certificate.

It is the third week in a row in which deaths have fallen under this measure. The number of deaths in care homes fell for a third week, by 54 to 184. Ms Sturgeon told MSPs the latest figures showed the restrictions so far were “making a difference”.

“It is slowing down the virus, it is protecting the NHS, it is saving lives,” she said.

“And as I will outline further, it is helping to bring forward the time we can start to ease these restrictions.”

The route map comes a week before the Scottish Government must review the formal lockdown that has been implemented, with Ms Sturgeon having hinted that further relaxations could be allowed if death rates and hospital cases continue to fall.

The document will set out ministers’ up-to-date assessment on the prospect of a phased return of schools and likely timescales, in line with the work of the Education Recovery Group being headed up by John Swinney.

The Scottish Government will also begin publishing guidance for key industries on the changes they will need to make to ensure their employees and customers are safe in advance getting the economy fired up, as well as setting out advice on travel and transport.

The route map will also take into account the most up-to-date estimates of the transmission rate, or R number, and the number of cases, as well as yesterday’s figures on deaths.

Ms Sturgeon has warned there will be no firm dates for exit from all of the different phases of lockdown, but the order in which restrictions are lifted will be made clear.

The figures published yesterday also show the total number of deaths registered in Scotland from 11-17 May was 1,415 – 33 per cent more than the average number of deaths registered in the same week over the last five years (1,064).

Covid-19 was the underlying cause of death in 85 per cent of the 351 excess deaths, down from 96 per cent the previous week. Three-quarters (75 per cent) of registered deaths involving Covid-19 to date were people aged 75 or over.

The NRS figures also show 38 per cent of registered deaths involving Covid-19 between 11-17 May were in hospitals, up from 37 per cent the previous week, while 6 per cent were at home or in non-institutional settings, up from 5 per cent the week before. Care homes account for 55 per cent of deaths, down 2 per cent from the previous week.

NRS director of statistical services Pete Whitehouse said: “These latest figures show that for the third week running since reporting of registered deaths relating to Covid-19 began, there has been a reduction in Covid-19-related deaths.” The NRS figures published yesterday differ from the lab-confirmed coronavirus deaths announced daily by the Scottish Government using Health Protection Scotland (HPS) figures because they include suspected or probable cases of Covid-19.

The latest figures confirmed through a laboratory test show that 2,184 have died from the virus, a rise of 50 on the previous day.

They also show that 14,751 Scots have now tested positive for Covid-19, an increase of 96 on Tuesday.