I’M pretty glad I live in Scotland at the best of times, but even more so this weather with the clear, calm and consistent messages from our Government over Covid19, especially when contrasted with the blizzard of puff coming from the Prime Minister of England.

To look at some of the more wild-eyed Tory propagandists, you’d think different places should all do the same thing, one size fits all like it or lump it. Nonsense. Let’s be clear, there are no mixed messages – there are different messages for different places. The fact that Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland and England have democratically decided to do (let’s be honest, only slightly) different things is entirely legitimate, and because different places are in different stages of this dreadful outbreak.

If you look a bit more widely, this is all hardly unusual. Different countries across the EU are lifting their restrictions in different ways. All relaxations have been accompanied by strong public messaging that wider restrictions remain in place, that there is no return to “normal” at present and that measures can be reversed if new cases spike again.

The Tory briefing of their pals in the press and headlines such as “Hurrah! Lockdown Freedom Beckons!” (Daily Mail) are grossly irresponsible. We all want out of this but we’re not there yet and we should not pretend we are.

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Easing measures centre around small to medium-sized commercial units and access to gardening and outdoor space. No EU country is relaxing social distancing measures or restrictions on mass gatherings at this stage.

Early indications show many citizens are opting to continue staying at home despite restrictions being eased. Some re-opened businesses report as low as 10% of pre-Covid footfall.

There’s a lot of best practice – and mistakes – to learn from, so the EU has played an active role,. The EU Commission and Council jointly published a roadmap aiming to guide member states, stressing that legal authority for any measures rests with member state governments.

However, the roadmap says the approach to lifting their lockdowns should be done in co-ordination with other member states (because different places are different but geography still matters) and be based on three criteria which should be met before any restrictions are eased: Efforts to flatten the curve of infections should have been shown to have been successful (indicated by sustained reduction in new cases and patients in ICUs). Governments must ensure sufficient capacity in their national health care systems, not only regarding treatment capacities in hospitals but also in terms of sufficient stocks.Countries should also ensure they have the capacity for continued monitoring of the virus, for rolling out large-scale testing and for contact tracing to detect and control any potential new cases.

The EU focus is on phased re-openings led by data and with an emphasis on the message that relaxing some measures is a new phase of action against the pandemic rather than the end of lockdowns or return to normal.

In Germany, Angela Merkel has announced the easing of some restrictions while stressing that progress is “fragile”. Since mid-April, stores of up to 800 square meters have been able to start trading with sanitary controls in place.

The National: Angela Merkel

Restrictions will now be eased on all restaurants, bars and shopping malls with power over the timeline being devolved to the leaders of Germany’s 16 states. Crucially, the federal government has agreed plans for an “emergency brake” with the leaders of the states that would oblige them to return to lockdown if there are more than 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants within a seven-week period.

In Belgium, they have gone for a four-stage re-opening. Economic and industrial activities resumed last week, but with people working from home where possible. Social distancing and face coverings are required where people are going to workplaces. Individual sports permitted where no physical contact occurs (walks, fishing, golf). More generally, face masks are recommended where it is difficult to keep maintain a distance of 1.5 metres from others. While exercise is encouraged, sitting in a park to sunbathe or have a picnic and private and public activities of a cultural, social, festive, folkloric, sporting and recreational nature are prohibited.

In Spain, on April 28, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced a four-stage plan to relax some of the strictest lockdown in the EU. It is being eased on a regional basis in, with four islands moving first on May 4, followed by rest of the country one week later.

Non-essential economic activities in industrial and construction sectors have been permitted since mid-April under strict safety and social distancing rules. The fuller de-escalation plan has four phases, each expected to last about two weeks. The process will take a minimum of six weeks, and hopefully no more than eight with Spain in a “new normality” by the end of June.

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Denmark was the second European country to announce a lockdown and this has also allowed it to be one of the first to announce easing measures. These included a partial re-opening of schools in mid-April, followed by a return to work for the likes of hairdressers, dentists, massage therapists, tattooists and driving school instructors.

Gatherings of more than 10 people were permitted from Sunday, but gatherings of more than 500 remain banned until at least 1 September. The easing of restrictions is being coupled with testing anyone showing Covid-19 symptoms and a Bluetooth proximity warning app.

France eased lockdown at the beginning of this week, with nurseries and schools progressively reopening, though with no more than 15 pupils allowed in each class. Gatherings of more than 10 remain banned, with beaches staying closed until June. Masks will be compulsory on public transport and in schools. The measures will be backed by capacity for 700,000 tests per week, including everyone who has been in contact with someone with the virus, asymptomatic or not.

This is a global pandemic, and we need to learn from the experience of other places to inform our own decisions. I’m glad Scotland will be doing just that.