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23 April 2020updated 06 Oct 2020 9:45am

Sturgeon calls for “balance“ between health impact of coronavirus and economic impact of lockdown

By Samuel Horti

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has warned that the coronavirus lockdown is devastating businesses, and that a better “balance” between the health, social, and economic impacts of the virus must be found.

The Scottish government today set out a framework for how it will ease coronavirus restrictions. In the 26-page document, the government said that the lockdown could cause Scottish GDP to shrink by as much as a third. “This is unprecedented and is causing deep uncertainty and hardship for many businesses, individuals and households. The damaging effect on poverty and inequality may be profound.”

It said that the pandemic was a “health crisis, a social crisis and an economic crisis”, and that “difficult decisions are required to balance these various, inter-related harms so as to minimise overall harm”.

Sturgeon stressed that she would not lift lockdown measures until the spread of virus was under control. Any easing of restrictions “careful, gradual, incremental and probably quite small to start with”, she said. “I can’t stand here and promise you that it’s going to get a whole lot easier soon.”

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The framework warns that lockdown measures may have to be re-imposed “with little notice” if the spread of the virus is not contained after they are lifted. “While we will do our best to avoid this, it is possible that such a cycle may happen more than once until we reach a point when we have in place an effective vaccine,” it said.

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The document stresses the need to keep the “R” value, which is the number of people someone who catches the virus goes on to infect, below one. This would likely require that “gathering in groups, for example in pubs or at public events, is banned or restricted for some time to come”, it said.

“Good hand hygiene and cough hygiene must become fundamental habits,” the document said. “We cannot afford to have exceptions. Each one of us will have to adapt to this as the new normal, at least until we are sure that we can be more protected by a vaccine or treatment.”

The document says Scotland could ease lockdown restrictions at different times to the rest of the UK, and that the government will consider a “number of options” for easing some restrictions over the next few weeks.