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5 May 2020updated 06 Oct 2020 9:45am

Scotland floats idea of sticking to social “bubbles“ after lockdown eased

By Samuel Horti

Scotland will consider allowing people to meet up outdoors in self-contained social “bubbles” when it begins to lift lockdown measures, the government has said.

It is “almost certain” no significant changes to lockdown will be made on 7 May, when the current review period of measures ends, a new government document says. The document is cautious about the possibility of lifting restrictions anytime soon, saying that schools might not reopen at all “in the near future”. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said today that the R value in Scotland – the number of people someone with coronavirus goes on to infect – could be as high as 1. Any higher that 1 means that the number of active cases will continue to rise.

However, the document sets out measures under consideration for lifting lockdown after 28 May, when the next review period ends. They include allowing people to leave home more often and for longer periods, and allowing people to socialise in small groups.

These “bubbles” will be “a single, self-contained unit, without connections to other households or ‘bubbles’. It is possible that this option would be introduced first for outdoor meetings, ahead of any change to permit indoor meetings of the bubble.” The most vulnerable groups would not be allowed to socialise in this way, the document says.

The Scottish government will work with individual sectors to establish rules for how, and when, businesses can return to work. “Our initial assessments are likely to focus on construction, manufacturing and retail, where less work can be done remotely, as well as elements of outdoor and rural work, where transmission risks are likely to be lower,” it says.

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“But to be clear, restrictions are likely to remain in place for some business activity for some time to come, especially where safe working is harder to achieve. Changes already adopted in many sectors, for example working from home and the use of digital technology, are likely to persist as part of the ‘new normal’.”