A HOST of family reunions are expected across Dumfriesshire this weekend after the Scottish Government announced a further easing of the lockdown.
But caution is being urged after the number of Covid-19 positive cases recorded locally rose by 12 this week to 274 after sitting at 261 for the first part of June.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon yesterday confirmed the move to phase two, which includes the introduction of ‘bubbles’, whereby single person households can now join up with another home, meet them indoors and even stay overnight with no physical distancing. It has been welcomed by many lone grandparents and single parents, desperate for contact and support.
Social interaction has also been expanded, meaning households can now meet up with two other homes and go indoors to use the toilet.
And shielded people can go outdoors to exercise, as well as take part in non contact activities like golf and meet outside, at a distance, with people from one other household.
The five mile travel guidance still applies for everyone for exercising but there is no distance restriction for meeting up with friends and family.
There will be more relaxation from Monday with dentists opening for urgent care, churches allowed to open for prayer and the resumption of professional sport, while face coverings will become mandatory on public transport. Further ahead, from June 29, outdoor markets and playgrounds can open, as well as outdoor businesses like zoos and garden attractions.
Furthermore, moving house will be permitted again and small marriage ceremonies and civil partnerships can take place.
Non essential retail can also reopen then, but only if they have outdoor entrances and exits. This means that while Gretna Gateway Outlet Village can trade, most of the shops in the Loreburne Centre will have to stay shut, unless they are deemed essential.
Clarifying some of the cross border issues, South Scotland SNP MSP Joan McAlpine said it is acceptable to go into England to visit others and vice versa. However, going shopping to Carlisle is still classed as a ‘non essential recreational’ journey and should not be undertaken if you live more than five miles from the city, unless it’s an essential purchase.
Drive thru takeaways also fall outwith the guidelines if you live more than five miles away from where it’s located.
The MSP added: “The family groups now apply in Scotland too – but not for people who are shielding. You can form a family group or bubble with a person who lives alone. But you can only form one family group and if one member tests positive for the virus, you must all isolate, even it you do not live together.
“Phase two means a lot more opportunities for us to socialise, shop and participate in sporting activities, although strict social distancing rules will still apply.
“And although it’s disappointing that the risk of transmission is still too high for street cafes and beer gardens to re-open right away, hopefully this is just a few weeks away.”
But South Scotland Labour MSP believes there’s ‘mixed messages’ and said: “While caution is needed, there will be some concern from many that the First Minister raised expectations but has thwarted them. For example, she previously implied that pubs and restaurants would be able to open outdoors but that’s no longer the case this month and while large retail units can re-open, small shopping centres like the Loreburne Centre in Dumfries can’t, except for access to an essential shop like a pharmacy. That really does send mixed messages.
“Ultimately, while moving into phase two is a step forward, it will be a long time before our region is back to where it was before the pandemic.”