Scotland appeals for "four nation" approach to lockdown as UK plans early exit

Scotland's Health Secretary has appealed for a "four nation" approach to easing the Coronavirus lockdown in the UK amid reports that Boris Johnson will lift some restrictions south of the border this weekend.

Jeane Freeman called for a "four nation" approach to easing lockdown
Jeane Freeman called for a "four nation" approach to easing lockdown

Jeane Freeman insisted there is little "room for manoeuvre" on easing restrictions in Scotland, which could pave the way for different rules north and south of the border.

It comes ahead of a meeting later today of the COBRA meeting which will decide whether the current three week lockdown should be extended. Nicola Sturgeon has already made it clear this will be extended in Scotland, although the Prime Minister is set to announce a relaxation of the rules in England on leaving home this weekend.

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Ms Freeman told Holyrood's health committee today: "We will want to as far as we can take a four nation approach to easing the lockdown measures in the same way as we took the four nation plan, you recall one of the very early publications was that four nation plan, where we were actively engaged in devising that plan.

"That is the approach we will want to take, but as the First Minister has said clearly, I think I've said it myself, at the end of the day my responsibility here is for the health of the population in Scotland.

"And so I will take a view which I will feed into my Government's view , based on the evidence that I have about where we are right now, in suppressing the virus.

"We do not think at this point that while the signs are hopeful that the R number is sufficiently low to give us much in the way of room for manoeuvre there without risking the progress that has been made largely as a consequence of what the public of Scotland have done.

"We cannot risk that progress being very quickly put into reverse. All of those views will be fed into whatever discussions are occurring between the four nations.

"I hope that we can reach a shared view about what we do going forward.."

Ms Freeman said that her weekly call with UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock and the other devolved heath ministers did touch on the review of the current lockdown measures.

The Scottish Health Secretary said that all the devolved ministers tool Mr Hancock that they wanted the "four nation approach" to continue, but they needed to be engaged in how any easing of the lockdown would happen and the timing of it.

"He (Hancock) heard what we were saying, but we did not have a discussion about that," Ms Freeman said.

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