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The road out of lockdown: Pivotal week ahead as Scots embrace gradual return to ‘normality’

Nicola Sturgeon is expected to announce on Thursday that Scotland is entering phase 3
Nicola Sturgeon is expected to announce on Thursday that Scotland is entering phase 3

The gradual process of returning to something resembling normality will take some important steps forward this week.

Whether Scots are in the mood for a pint at a local beer garden or want to explore the sprawling grounds of some scenic landmarks, from today there will be more on offer than there has been for more than three months.

The road out of lockdown: All the key dates announced in Scotland so far

And from Friday, friends and family can be reunited on a larger scale as extended groups will be allowed to meet up outdoors – as long as the parties involved adhere to social distancing.

Also at the end of the week, households will be able to meet indoors with people from a maximum of two other households.

While the chance to spend more time with family and friends might feel like a return to normality, going for shopping trips will provide a sharp reminder the threat of coronavirus is still looming.

The use of face coverings becomes mandatory in shops on Friday, as a means of preventing the spread of Covid-19 now that people are out and about more.

The rule will be enforced nationwide with £60 fines imposed on people seen breaking it.

As the nation teetered on the brink of lockdown in March, with businesses shutting and events being called off, people were encouraged to venture into the great outdoors for the sake of their mental health.

Soon afterwards though, travel limits were imposed and people in cities were unable to jump in their car and breathe in the country air.

And the National Trust For Scotland soon slammed the gates shut on its countryside estates.

But the five-mile travel limit for leisure or recreational travel was lifted on Friday – meaning people can now begin to escape their environs.

And today, outdoors enthusiasts will once again be able to visit landmarks across the north and north-east.

In Aberdeenshire, Castle Fraser near Inverurie, Crathes Castle and Drum Castle in Deeside and Fyvie Castle will be reopening.

Haddo House, near Ellon, will also welcome visitors, along with Leith Hall in Kennethmont and Craigievar Castle.

People will also be able to return to the stunning Pitmedden Gardens too.

Brodie Castle in Moray will be among the many properties across the north reopening, along with the estate and garden at Inverewe in Wester Ross and the battlefield at Culloden.

The government’s advice remains that people should continue to follow the two metre physical distancing rules.

However some exemptions will be possible for shops, pubs, restaurants and public transport.

The distance could be reduced to one metre if other steps are taken, such as installing perspex screens and enhanced ventilation.

Other big changes on the road to recovery are also now within reaching distance.

Next Monday, non-essential outlets inside shopping centres will be able to reopen.

Children and young people will also be allowed to play organised outdoor contact sports in seven days time.

Dentists will be able to see patients for routine treatment, and optometrists can begin to scale up work.

And next Wednesday, hairdressers and barbers will pick up their scissors and clippers once more.

Pubs and restaurants will also be able to open for inside trade on that date, although Nicola Sturgeon said this would be on “a limited basis” and subject to several conditions.

Ms Sturgeon hopes to announce on Thursday that Scotland is entering the third phase of the route map out of lockdown.

But she has warned the nation to be on its guard, and the clamping down of restrictions in the south of Scotland following a spike in coronavirus cases has been held-up as an example of how precarious the balance is.

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