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A return to normal life before the coronavirus is ‘not on the cards’ in the near future, Scotland’s First Minister has warned today.
Nicola Sturgeon made a series of announcements as she spoke ahead of the publication of a new government report looking at potential next steps.
- Social distancing and limiting contact will need to be a ‘fact of life’
- It could last ‘possibly for the rest of the year and beyond’
- Talk of lifting the lockdown was ‘misguided’
- Big gatherings and events likely to ‘be off for months’
- Businesses will have to operate 2m distancing
- Major changes for schools and education
- Vulnerable people may have to shield for longer
- Until a vaccine is found, many restrictions will have to stay in place
Some businesses in certain sectors may be able to reopen but only if they can ‘change how they work’ to keep employees and customers 2m apart, she said.
Schools may have to change how they teach, with not all pupils attending school at the same time or schools being subject to major redesign to keep pupils 2m apart, she warned.
‘Limited outdoor activity’ might be able to restart ahead of indoor activity, but ‘different approaches for different areas,’ may be brought in.
Some form of longer term ‘shielding’ for older people and those vulnerable to COVID-19 is almost certain to be required, she added.
‘What I have set out there is not firm decisions,’ she told the briefing. ‘But they do illustrate the kind of options we will be assessing.’
She said any lifting of restrictions would have to be ‘careful, gradual, incremental and quite small’.
It would require ‘ongoing monitoring,’ and in extreme cases ‘reversed’ with restrictions returned.
Mrs Sturgeon said: ‘A return to normal as we knew it is not on the cards in the near future and it is really important that I am upfront with you now about that.’
The concern is that lifting restrictions too soon could see coronavirus return and ‘run rampant,’ – overwhelming the NHS and costing more lives.
‘What we will be seeking to do is find a new normal,’ she said.
‘A way of living alongside this virus but in a form that keeps it under control and stops it taking the toll we know it can do.
She accepted the lockdown was harming the economy, living standards, children’s education, physical health, mental health and wellbeing.
Indeed, she acknowledged there are fears the restrictions may be storing up a potential health timebomb.
‘We must try to find a better balance than the one we have right now,’ she said. ‘As we do so, we cannot and we must not take our eye off the need to suppress the virus and minimise the damage that it does.
‘Continuing to suppress COVID-19 is the central objective. We cannot guarantee no one will get this virus in the future, far from it.
‘An assumption that it is somehow safe to allow a certain proportion, or section of the population to get the virus is not part of the approach we will be taking.
‘We are increasingly confident measures we are taking now are suppressing the virus.’