SCOTS will be able to go full taps aff in the parks today after the First Minister ordered the first significant easing of the coronavirus restrictions.
The formal move into phase one of the Scottish Government’s four-stage route map out of lockdown follows a “sustained and unmistakable” downward trend in Covid-19 cases.
Speaking at the daily briefing, Nicola Sturgeon said the R number – the rate at which the virus reproduces – had now been below 1.0 for more three weeks.
Last week, she added, the Government’s scientists estimated that there were 25,000 infectious cases across the country. Their latest estimate was that this had dropped to 19,000.
The First Minister said that since the peak of the outbreak in Scotland there had also been an 80% drop in the number of patients in intensive care and a more than 80% drop in the number of new hospital admissions.
This she said meant the Government was now able to allow “some careful and cautious changes” including relaxing rules on sunbathing, outdoor sports and the opening of garden centres.
READ MORE: Phase One: Easing of Scottish lockdown restrictions explained
Perhaps the biggest change – and the one that will be the most welcome – is around social interaction.
From today, households can meet up with other households, holding out the tantalising prospect of family members living in separate homes being able to see each other in real life for the first time since the lockdown came into force
However, there are limits. Groups can only meet out of doors and there can be no physical interaction. The overall size of the gathering must also be limited to a maximum of eight
The First Minister acknowledged that while today’s announcement would good news for most in Scotland, it would be particularly hard for those who are shielding – those considered to be at extremely high risk of severe illness with coronavirus.
“You are now well into your third month of being advised not to leave home at all,” said Sturgeon. “And I know that listening to today’s changes – which don’t yet bring a change to your own circumstances – will be particularly hard for you.
“So I want to assure you that we will be providing you with more information and guidance in the next couple of weeks. And we will be trying, as far as possible, as far as safe, to move to less of a blanket approach – one which requires all of you to stay at home all of the time – to one that more reflects your individual circumstances.”
The First Minister admitted to some nervousness around the relaxing of the rules. “I worry that the limited changes we are making to these rules, the very careful changes, might lead to much greater change in reality,” she said.
Sturgeon added: “I am sure there are going to be lots of emotional reunions this weekend. You will 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, so I hope you all really enjoy it.
“But please, please – respect the parameters we are setting out. Be respectful of each other’s space and make sure things still feel different to normal, because they should still feel different to normal.”
The First Minister also urged Scots to use their judgement. “We simply don’t want, in this phase, large numbers of people at tourist hotspots or beauty spots,” she said.
“Crowds of people, even if they’re trying to social distance, bring more risk than we judge is acceptable at this point. So if you do go somewhere and find it is crowded, please use your judgment, change your plans and go somewhere else.
Police also urged the public to avoid busy areas and beauty spots as lockdown measures are eased and temperatures rise.
The start of phase one coincides with a period of warm weather, with temperatures set to hit 24C in some places. Police Chief Constable Iain Livingstone has warned of overcrowding at parks, beaches and lochs.