More shops, services and leisure facilities will be hoping to reopen in Shetland next week after the First Minister said she was “optimistic” about moving into the next phase out of lockdown.
Nicola Sturgeon said yesterday (Monday) that when the next formal review arrives – next Thursday – she hoped to progress to phase two of the route map “with more individual freedoms restored and more businesses able to reopen and operate again”.
Ms Sturgeon made the announcement as part of her lunchtime briefing, which heard that for the second day running no new deaths had been reported for people who had tested positive for Covid-19.
“This is obviously very encouraging,” she said.
“I can’t tell how much I have longed to report such a development – and I know you will have longed to hear that.
“But even so, we must still exercise caution. We know from previous weeks that fewer deaths tend to be registered at weekends – so it is still highly likely that more Covid deaths will be recorded in the days ahead. But I very much hope we continue to see a steady decline.”
Shetland’s official number of Covid-19 cases has now remained unchanged at 54 for seven weeks, since 20th April.
Authorities in the isles have said previously they felt it necessary to stick with the national approach to easing lockdown.
Ms Sturgeon announced the route map out of lockdown last month, with Scotland entering phase one on 29th May.
The next formal review takes place on Thursday, 18th June, meaning phase two could take effect from the 19th.
Phase two allows people to meet outside with larger groups, including from other households, with physical distancing and hygiene measures.
People will be able to drive locally for leisure and public transport is planned to increase services, though still at significantly reduced capacity.
The route map states there may be “geographical differences” in approaches to transport, depending on circumstances.
More shops will be able to reopen, with physical distancing in place, as well as outdoor markets.
Pubs and restaurants will be able to open outdoor spaces with physical distancing and increased hygiene routines. Few Shetland pubs and restaurants have outdoor spaces, however, meaning not all will be able to reopen.
Playgrounds and sports courts are also expected to reopen as well as places of worship for private prayer, marriages and civil partnerships and other ceremonies but with limited numbers of attendees.
Health boards are expected to increase the provision to meet the backlog of demand, urgent referrals and the triage of routine services.
Vulnerable groups, who had been told to shield until 18th June, have been told they should continue until 31st July – although they will be advised that outdoor exercise is permissible.
“I know that many of you listening today will be very disappointed that shielding is to continue for some time yet, Ms Sturgeon said.
“I want to assure you though that this is not a decision we take lightly – it weighs heavily on all of us, including on me.
But it is for your protection. And I hope that our advice on exercise, should it come into force next week as I expect, will make a difference for many of you.
Ms Sturgeon urged everyone to stick with the guidelines.
“These painful but necessary sacrifices have brought us to where we are today – with this virus in retreat,” she said.
“In retreat, but not gone. And still posing a real risk, especially to the most clinically vulnerable.
“And that’s the key point I want to make to you today. This is such a crucial juncture in our battle against the virus. We will either keep going, keep beating it back – or we will give it the chance to roar back with a vengeance.”