Nicola Sturgeon announces further easing of coronavirus lockdown in Scotland

Nicola Sturgeon has announced Scotland will move to the second phase of easing the coronavirus lockdown. ( Pool/Getty Images)

Nicola Sturgeon has announced a further easing of the coronavirus lockdown in Scotland.

The first minister confirmed the country is moving into phase two of her four phase plan for ending lockdown during an address to MSPs at Holyrood on Thursday.

As part of the latest relaxing of restrictions, Sturgeon said Scots who live on their own or only with young children will be able to form an “extended household group” with one other household.

It means they will be able to meet indoors without the need for physical distancing, as well as stay overnight.

Sturgeon also urged Scots to stay within a roughly five-mile radius of their home for recreation, but said the rule does not apply when meeting family.

First minister Nicola Sturgeon arrives for first minister's questions at the Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh. (PA)

From Friday, people will be able to meet those in two other households while outside, with no more than eight people gathered at a time.

Read more: More than half of Brits think Boris Johnson should keep 2m social distancing rule

People will also be able to go inside to use the toilet when meeting in someone else’s garden, she added

She also confirmed that those who are in the shielding category will be able to go outside for exercise from Friday, as well as be able to meet people from one other household – as was the case for the general public in phase one – so long as social distancing measures are adhered to.

The Scottish construction sector will move to the next phase of its restart plan from Monday.

Dentists will also be able to open, professional sport can resume and places of worship will be able to reopen, but limited to individual prayer only.

Beginning on 29 June, outdoor markets, playgrounds and sports facilities will reopen in Scotland, along with attractions such as zoos and “garden attractions”, although visitors should not travel more than five miles from their homes, and tickets should be bought in advance.

Restrictions on moving house will also be dropped and weddings will be allowed to go ahead, but only if they are outdoors and with “limited numbers”.

Scotland is moving into phase two of the Scottish government's plan for gradually lifting lockdown. (PA)

Face coverings will be made mandatory on all public transport from Monday.

The rule includes buses, trains, taxis and trams, with only children under five, those with breathing problems or other physical conditions which make it difficult to wear a mask, being exempt.

Read more: Britons shielding from coronavirus 'could be allowed out by end of July’

The first minister said: “We believe that this measure will be increasingly important as use of public transport increases, and that implementing it now will help to reduce the risks of transmission and build public confidence.”

The second phase of Scotland’s route map also suggested that beer gardens and outdoor seating areas in restaurants could be opened - but the first minister said she was “not able to give a date for that just yet”.

Sturgeon also announced a change to the messaging the scottish Government uses, from: “Stay home, protect the NHS and save lives” to “Stay safe, protect others and save lives”.

During her address to MSPs, Sturgeon confirmed a further two people had died after testing positive for coronavirus, bringing Scotland’s total death toll to 2,464.

First minister Nicola Sturgeon said the second phase of easing Scotland's lockdown restrictions will come into effect from Friday and Monday. (PA)

Meanwhile, a further 11 people tested positive for COVID-19 bringing the nation’s total to 18,077 – up from 18,066 on Wednesday.

Read more: One of first COVID-19 patients to use dexamethasone says it 'definitely' helped save life

There are 929 people in hospital with confirmed or suspected COVID-19, a decrease of 36 from the previous day.

Of these patients, 23 were in intensive care – a decrease of one from Wednesday’s total.

Patient bays after the completion of the construction of the NHS Louisa Jordan hospital, built at the SEC Centre in Glasgow, to care for coronavirus patients.

Sturgeon said that although “real progress” had been made in the battle against the virus, she warned that a “real risk” of high transmission remains.

She said: “Taking account of that progress and the other evidence we are required to assess, I am therefore very pleased to confirm that the Scottish government has concluded that we can now move into the next phase of our exit from lockdown.”

The decision to move to the next phase of Scotland’s route out of lockdown will be made on 9 July.

Personal wellbeing in Britain during lockdown. (PA graphic)

Despite the UK government’s preference for a “four nations approach” towards softening the lockdown, clear differences have emerged between the countries.

The devolved governments in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have diverged from England, which began lifting restrictions in mid-May under the government’s five-tier “COVID-19 Strategy”.

England is looking to move into phase three of its lockdown plan on 4 July, while Wales – which has taken a more steady and conservative route – is expected to announce a further easing of restrictions on Friday.

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