Scotland officially enters Phase 3 of coronavirus lockdown exit

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed Scotland can now move into the third phase of exiting lockdown.

The announcement this lunchtime means next week can see hairdressers and barbers re-opening with enhanced hygiene measures and that indoor pubs, cafes and restaurants can also open their doors to customers again.

All holiday accommodation can reopen, as can museums, galleries, cinemas, monuments and libraries.

And from Wednesday July 15, churches can open for congregational services, communal prayer and contemplation with physical distancing and limited numbers.

Confirmation that the country’s pubs and bars can reopen on Monday has been warmly welcomed by the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA).

The trade group’s managing director Colin Wilkinson said the First Minister’s announcement had cleared the way for the majority of premises to open their doors and welcome back customers, albeit in restricted numbers.

However, the SLTA repeated its call that continuing ongoing support is also essential in the long term for the industry’s survival and for the protection of the jobs it provides.

‘Customer confidence in returning to our pubs and bars will also be a crucial factor in the days and weeks ahead, and the SLTA is confident that the industry will adapt to provide the right environment for our customers to enjoy the pub and bar experience.
‘Our customers also have their part to play and the SLTA asks those who visit our pubs and bars to bear with us and comply with the necessary restrictions that are now in place,’ said Mr Wilkinson.

Scotland’s museums and galleries have also ‘warmly welcomed’ the Scottish Government’s announcement of lockdown easing further. While the sector is working together to support and share knowledge how to best welcome visitors back, announcements about openings will  be made individually as soon as each place is able to  do so. Visitors are urged to check websites for details  before leaving home.

Commenting on the news for churches, the Rev Dr George Whyte, Principal Clerk of the Church of Scotland, said although the news was welcome it was up to ministers and congregations to consider carefully whether or not they should return just yet.

‘Ahead of today’s announcement, we have prepared guidance to help ministers and congregations as they consider if they should open their church building at this point. As we continue to live with the threat of coronavirus, ministers and congregations must consider carefully whether or not they should return to the church building in these early phases, depending on their own circumstances and the nature of their church.’

He added: ‘Parishioners and ministers in high risk groups may be at particular risk from infection and many will prefer to continue with online worship options at this stage. Others will know that with physical distancing and a cap on numbers that there simply will not be room for all those who might wish to attend Sunday worship. However, we recognise that for many the buildings themselves are an important sacred space and the opportunity to return to their place of worship, even on a limited basis, will bring spiritual and mental-health benefits.’

Scotland’s Catholic Bishops have  welcomed the First Minister’s announcement too. The President of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, Bishop Hugh Gilbert said: ‘The bishops are extremely grateful to all those who have worked tirelessly to prepare our parishes for public worship and to those who made their views known to their parliamentary representatives and the government on the subject of communal worship.
‘While thanking the Scottish Government for listening to these calls, we would remind parishioners that the obligation to attend Sunday Mass remains suspended and ask those who return to do so in accordance with the infection control measures in force in each parish, mindful always of the need to protect themselves and others.’