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Coronavirus: Nicola Sturgeon says Scotland will not follow England’s easing of ‘shielding’ rules

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Nicola Sturgeon has said that Scotland will not follow a move by the Westminster government to ease lockdown restrictions for vulnerable people who have been “shielding” from coronavirus.

The first minister said there would be no change in the guidance “at this stage”, following reports that the rules would be relaxed in England to enable people in that category to go outside for the first time in months.

Before the UK Government’s announcement, Ms Sturgeon had promised to provide an update for vulnerable people in the next few weeks.

On Thursday, she said: “People who are shielding will be well into their third month of isolation, of not being able to leave the house at all.

“They are uppermost in our thoughts as we think about how to safely come out of lockdown and we’ll provide more information for them in the coming weeks.”

Speaking about the Scottish Government’s approach to easing lockdown rules on the Sophy Ridge on Sunday show on Sky News, Ms Sturgeon said: “I agree with the opinion that has been expressed over the weekend that we have got to be very cautious.

“This virus hasn’t gone away, there is still a significant risk that it could run out of control again, that’s why in Scotland we are moving very slowly, very cautiously.

“We have just gone into Phase 1 of our route map out of lockdown, and that expressly recognises that in that phase there is a significant risk that the epidemic is not fully contained.”

About 2.2 million people in England are considered “extremely vulnerable” to the virus and have been advised to “shield” themselves.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has now said those shielding from Covid-19 in England would be able to spend time with other people outdoors.

And Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said the full guidance will be revealed on Sunday, as charities called for the scientific evidence behind the decision to be made clear and urged more help.

 

In England, those considered extremely vulnerable will be able to go outside with members of their household from Monday, while continuing to follow social distancing guidelines.

And those who live alone can meet outside with one other person from another household.

Reviews of the shielding guidance are expected to be made at regular points in the coming weeks.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “I want to thank everyone who has followed the shielding guidance – it is because of your patience and sacrifice that thousands of lives have been saved.

“I do not underestimate just how difficult it has been for you, staying at home for the last 10 weeks, and I want to pay tribute to your resilience.

“I also want to recognise the hundreds of thousands of extraordinary volunteers who have supported you in shielding.

“Whether through delivering medicines and shopping, or simply by checking in on those isolating, they should feel deeply proud of the part they have played in this collective effort.

“We have been looking at how we can make life easier for our most vulnerable, so today I am happy to confirm that those who are shielding will be able to spend time outside with someone else, observing social distance guidelines.

“I will do what I can, in line with the scientific advice, to continue making life easier for you over the coming weeks and months.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Phil Anderson, head of policy at the MS Society, said people would want to hear the scientific evidence behind the decision.

He said: “Over 130,000 people live with MS in the UK and thousands of them have been left feeling forgotten after months of shielding.

“While for some it may be a relief that this relaxation is happening in England others have been left feeling confused.

“We’re extremely concerned this news has come out of the blue – people who are extremely vulnerable will rightly want to hear a lot more about the scientific evidence showing this will be safe for them.”

Steven McIntosh, director of policy at Macmillan Cancer Support, said the decision was “a step forward” for a group who “have felt left behind and forgotten” as lockdown is eased for others in England.

He said: “For many, it’ll be welcome advice that they can now choose to go outside for exercise or to meet people whilst socially distancing.

“But they still face heavy restrictions like being advised to avoid food shopping, going to pharmacies or their workplaces.

“The government also hasn’t yet delivered its commitment to provide greater help to this extremely vulnerable group, and Macmillan has heard from people living with cancer that existing ‘shielding’ support isn’t getting through.

“So the government must now set out how they will guarantee the needs of the most vulnerable and isolated are met.”

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