Scotland set for 'emotional family reunions' says Nicola Sturgeon as lockdown exit begins

Nicola Sturgeon today gave the green light for "emotional reunions" of families and friends across Scotland this weekend as she confirmed the country will enter the first phase of exit from Coronavirus lockdown.

The First Minister admitted she was "worried" about the prospect of virus cases flaring up again as she signalled that Scots will now be able to visit other households if they remain outdoors, take part in outdoor sports and sunbathe in the park or beach.

It came as the number of hospital cases and deaths from the virus continued to stabilise, while the prevalence of COVID19 has fallen from an estimated 25,000 across the country to 19,000.

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The new approach, which gets underway tomorrow, marks the first of Scotland's four-phase “Route Map” exit from Coronavirus lockdown.

Nicola Sturgeon said emotional reunions are likely

Ms Sturgeon said she she trusts Scots to use their "judgement" to interpret the rules sensibly and issued a plea for a national effort to avoid virus cases rising again.

"As we take these take these first steps, I do feel a bit nervous,” she said during her daily Coronavirus briefing.

"I’m worried that the limited changes that we're making to these rules, the very careful changes might lead to much greater change in reality.

"So I really need you to help to make sure that is not the case.

"I am sure there are going to be lots of emotional reunions. You'll be planning to see family and friends that you haven't seen for weeks and based on the current forecasts the sun will be shining too.

"We've all waited a long time for this and I hope you all really enjoy it. But please, please really respect the parameters we're setting out - respect each other’s space. Make sure things still feel different to normal, because they should still feel different to normal."

The changes announced by Ms Sturgeon will mean that Scots can meet up with other "households" although they must remain outside, likely in the garden. The guidance calls for a maximum of eight people with social distancing being observed. Scots should not meet up with people from more than one other household per day. Although there is no limit on the distance Scots can travel to see friends and family, it is still against the rules to go inside another house, which tends to preclude longer journeys which may require use of the toilet.

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And although Scots can also travel five miles to outdoor recreation areas, Ms Sturgeon has urged them to keep clear of areas with big crowds of people as this may see a flare-up in the spread of the virus. The use of public transport is still advised against unless necessary.

The SNP leader insisted that "Stay at Home" remained the "fundamental foundational message" in the next phase.

In a direct appeal to Scots, she added: "Please do the right thing - not for me but do the right thing for yourself and your loved ones and for the community."

Ms Sturgeon insisted that the guidance being issued to Scots was "as clear as possible" to help people understand the limits which remain in place.

"I do think this is increasingly about trusting peoples' judgement and I do trust the judgement of the Scottish people, of course I do.

"But my job and the Scottish Government's job is to emphasise that judgement as far as we can. We can't cater for every individual single circumstance, but give you as much information and to enable you to make the right judgements."

Phase One also means outdoor activity can resume for businesses, with the construction industry allowed to restart site preparations. Garden centres can also reopen and ministers will no longer discourage "drive through" fast food outlets from opening.

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But non-essential shops must stay shut, including cafes. Staff are still being encouraged to work from home where possible.

Teachers will also be able to return to schools next week to start preparations for the new year. Childcare and childminder facilities will also get up and running again next week, with restrictions around social distancing in place.

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