At a glance: The plan for lifting Scotland out of lockdown

The Scottish Government will begin to ease some restrictions potentially as early as next week.

Lockdown: What will you be allowed to do?
Lockdown: What will you be allowed to do?

From May 28, the Scottish Government has indicated it will begin to slowly ease the Covid-19 lockdown.

That doesn’t mean things immediately change next Thursday – it might take a few days before certain measures are lifted.

Scottish ministers have published a new paper outlining a four-phase plan to gradually bring back “a semblance of normality” to our lives, as Nicola Sturgeon put it.

In its foreword, the First Minister wrote: “This document sets out the steps that will take us there.

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“It doesn’t have all the answers and it doesn’t set exact timescales. That’s because we are still learning about the virus.

“We will have to move carefully and gradually to ensure we keep it under
control and develop the best ways of doing so.”

Coronavirus restrictions are reviewed every three weeks, and any changes will be closely monitored – meaning if the rate of the virus’ transmission increases, measures could quickly be reimposed again.

On the other hand, according to Sturgeon: “It may also be that we are able to ease restrictions faster than we initially thought that we could.”

Phase one

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We are now preparing to move to phase one at the end of May – but that’s only because the reproduction rate, or R number, is below one, and hospital admissions, deaths and new cases are all falling.

Provided this progress continues, from the end of next week, some restrictions will be eased.

Meeting friends and family

  • You can meet members of another household outdoors, for example, in a garden or park – but you must keep physically distanced from them, with at least two metres between you.
  • You can only meet people from another household one household at a time.

Sports and recreation

  • You may sit outside in public spaces, to sunbathe or eat lunch or whatever else, provided you only meet with people from your household or one other household.
  • You can take part in non-contact outdoor sport or activities, like golf, tennis, bowls, fishing, canoeing, outdoor swimming and so on. But observe social distancing and hygiene guidance at all times.

Schools

  • Teachers and other staff will be permitted to return to schools in June to prepare classrooms for next term.
  • An increased number will be able to access childcare provision, like key workers and disadvantaged families, with childminding services reopening along with fully outdoor nursing provision.
  • There will also be some teacher support “where possible” for pupils transitioning into P1 or from P7 to S1.

Getting around

  • You may travel a short distance, on foot, by bike or by car, for recreational purposes but should stick to your local area.

Outdoor businesses

  • Construction sites will be allowed to resume work.
  • Garden centres and plant nurseries will be permitted to reopen, although not accompanying cafes (unless for takeaway).
  • Drive-through food and drink outlets will also be able to gradually reopen, as will waste recycling centres and court and tribunal buildings.
  • Preparations to safely reopen the housing market will begin.
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In addition, businesses that are allowed to reopen in phase two – provided they observe social distancing and hygiene measures – can begin preparing for the return of staff. More on that next…

Phase two

To continue moving through the phases, the government will need to be satisfied it is meeting six criteria outlined by the World Health Organisation.

These include having a sufficient system of test, trace and isolate (TTI) in place, minimising the risk of outbreaks in care homes and ensuring workplaces are safe to return to through measures like social distancing, hygiene controls and even thermal monitoring.

Provided that all happens, what comes next in the second phase?

Seeing friends and family indoors

  • You will be able to see people from one other household in an indoor setting, while maintaining physical distancing.
  • You would also be allowed to meet in larger groups of households outside to see friends and family – again, with two-metre distancing in place.

Beer gardens

  • Pubs and restaurants with outdoor spaces can begin reopening these spaces to the public with “physical distancing and increased hygiene routines”.
  • Outdoor markets could also be reopened, with social distancing, hygiene measures and controls on numbers in place.

Public transport

  • It is intended that public transport be offering increased services by this stage, although peak-time travel will still be discouraged.

Indoor non-office work

  • Indoor-based work such as in factories, warehouses or lab and research facilities will be allowed to resume.
  • Previously closed small retail shops will be permitted to open again, with the usual caveats about distancing and hygiene in effect.
  • There should also be a relaxation on restrictions around house moves.

Professional sport

  • Professional sport should be allowed to resume at this stage in line with official public health advice.
  • In addition, playgrounds and sport courts will also be allowed to reopen.

Places of worship

  • Limited numbers would be allowed to reenter churches, mosques and synagogues for “private prayer”.
  • Marriages, civil partnerships and other ceremonies would be again allowed to take place, with a limit on attendees.

Phase three

By this stage, things should “begin to feel closer to normal”, the government says.

Larger parties

  • You will be able to meet with multiple households, indoors or outdoors, while still observing distancing and hygiene measures.

Driving

  • You will be allowed to drive outside your local area for leisure and exercise.
  • Public transport, meanwhile, should be back to running full services, although social distancing measures will continue to limit numbers.

Schools

  • Scottish school pupils will return to school on August 11 for the new term, but on a part-time basis.
  • They will attend school in blocks to allow for deep cleaning between groups, making up the other half of their learning at home.
  • Students at colleges and university will also return in a similarly phased way, also with a model of blended learning.

Pubs, restaurants and hairdressers

  • Pubs and restaurants can reopen their indoor spaces, along with larger shops that are currently closed.
  • Hairdressers and other specialist personal retail will also reopen.

Cinemas, libraries and gyms

  • Museums, galleries, cinemas and libraries can reopen, subject to the usual caveats.
  • So too can gyms and other indoor sport and leisure facilities.
  • Live events with restricted numbers and social distancing will be permitted.
  • Restrictions on hotels, B&Bs and holiday homes can also be lifted.

Working

  • Indoor office work can restart, provided social distancing and hygiene measures have been established in the workplace.
  • Flexible working will be encouraged such as staggered start times for staff to keep numbers on the roads and on public transport manageable.

Dentists and opticians

  • By stage three, all dental practices should be able to see patients again (with some services beginning to reopen during stage two).
  • All community optometry will reopen with the usual social distancing safeguards in place.

Phase four

At this point, a move to phase four would mean Covid-19 had been suppressed to “very low levels” in Scotland, possibly with a vaccine or some kind of treatment in place.

The country would be open again, with restrictions on seeing family and friends, on travelling, on shopping and on going out all likely to be eased further.

That said, “the continued importance of hygiene and public health will be emphasised”, the paper states.

Working

  • Despite it being phase four, working from home will still be encouraged where possible.
  • All types of workplaces would be open, but businesses should maintain flexible working patterns if they can.

Education

  • Schools and childcare providers will be operating with any necessary precautions in place.
  • College and university campuses along with key student services would be fully reopened, with precautions in place.

Live events and mass gatherings

  • Restrictions on live events like concerts or live sport could be further relaxed, with mass gatherings allowed to resume in line with public health guidance.
  • All religious services and ceremonies, such as weddings or funerals, could now take place along with any necessary precautions.

Coronavirus vaccine rollout ‘is a seven-day operation’

First Minister defends vaccine programme after significantly fewer jabs took place on Sunday.

Boonchai Wedmakawand via Getty Images
Opposition politicians believe the vaccine programme is moving to slowly.

Nicola Sturgeon has insisted Scotland’s vaccination programme is a genuine seven-day-a-week operation despite a substantial drop in the number of doses administered on Sunday.

Just 11,364 patients in Scotland received their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine on Sunday, according to the government’s figures – less than half of the 23,371 people who got one on Saturday.

A further 155 patients also received their second dose of vaccination, down from the 195 carried out the day before.

It is the lowest number of vaccinations administered since the Scottish Government began publishing daily figures, although last weekend’s data only states that 40,151 were carried out across both Saturday and Sunday combined.

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Asked about the significant drop, the First Minister suggested it could be due to a “lag” in reporting the number of vaccines carried out and that the Scottish Government may trial round-the-clock appointments for the general population.

Speaking at the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing, Sturgeon said: “We have a seven-day programme that will continue to develop as more and larger-scale sites come on stream.

“We were also having discussions about this on Friday; looking at piloting 24/7 arrangements so that people – particularly when we get into the wider groups of the population – have choices about the time that they turn up for vaccines.”

Sturgeon also acknowledged England had vaccinated a higher proportion of its over-80 population but suggested this was because Scotland was prioritising “more labour-intensive” vaccinations in care homes.

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Approximately 95% of over-80s in Scottish care homes had received a vaccination while an estimated 90% of all residents have had at least one dose, she said.

Sturgeon also said the rollout of the vaccine to other over-80s who are being prioritised was “picking up pace”, with approximately 46% getting a vaccine – up from 34% on Friday.

“That will grow on a daily basis as we work towards the target, which we are – I would say – well on track to meet for the over-80s population,” she said.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “We’ve warned the SNP’s vaccine rollout has been sluggish for some time but the latest evidence shows it’s a shambles over the weekend.

“Nicola Sturgeon’s claims of a data lag are clutching at straws when this has happened two weeks in a row and the figures are not picking up enough midweek to get back on track.

“They are failing to deliver the seven-day service that was promised, and GPs are still not getting supplies quickly enough from the SNP.”


Edinburgh’s iconic Jenners to close with loss of 200 jobs

Frasers Group says it has been unable to reach agreement over future of iconic store on Edinburgh's Princes Street.

© Google Maps 2020
Jenners department store to close on May 3.

Edinburgh’s iconic Jenners department store will close in May.

Some 200 jobs will be lost and the historic building, on the capital’s Princes Street, will be left vacant.

Frasers Group plc said the company had been unable to reach a tenancy agreement with the building’s owner Anders Polvsen.

Jenners opened in 1838 and was Scotland’s oldest independent department store until it was taken over in 2005.

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A spokesperson for Frasers Group plc, which runs the store, said: “Despite the global pandemic, numerous lockdowns and the turbulence caused for British retail, the landlord hasn’t been able to work mutually on a fair agreement, therefore, resulting in the loss of 200 jobs and a vacant site for the foreseeable future with no immediate plans.

“Our commitment to our Frasers strategy remains but landlords and retailers need to work together in a fair manner, especially when all stores are closed.

“We would like to take this opportunity to thank our Jenners staff for their hard work and dedication.”

Danish billionaire Povlsen and David Chipperfield Architects want to restore the Victorian building to “its original glory and quality”.

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The plans include the restoration of the central atrium – a three-storey, top-lit grand saloon.

Anders Krogh Vogdrup, director at Bestsellers, the company owned by Polvsen, said: “We can confirm that Frasers Group has notified us that they will be exercising their break option, and so will be leaving the Jenners building.

“We have endeavoured to work with tenants during the pandemic and resulting lockdowns; offering rent-free periods, deferrals and payment plans, and encouraging our tenants to utilise Government-funded schemes to save costs and protect jobs.

“Despite the substantial rent reduction already granted to Frasers and rent-free periods to cover all lockdowns, Frasers has made the decision that it does not wish to continue in occupation.

“This will see the end of the 16-year association between House of Fraser and this building, but not of the 180 years of Jenners department store.

“We are in talks with retailer operators and are planning a programme of works to ensure that, when safe and able to do so, Jenners will reopen.

“Our primary goal is to see the department store returned it to its former glory; Jenners of Edinburgh is an institution and, despite the changing face of retail, it is our aspiration that Jenners will continue to be a retail store for as long as we are its stewards.”

‘Cautious optimism’ hospital admissions starting to slow

According to NHS boards across Scotland, 2016 people are currently in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19.

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Nicola Sturgeon has said there’s “cautious grounds for optimism” that coronavirus hospital admissions are starting to tail off.

According to NHS boards across Scotland, 2016 people are currently in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 – an increase of five overnight. 

Out of those, 151 patients are in intensive care – six fewer than what was reported on Sunday.

Speaking at the Scottish Government’s Covid briefing on Monday, the First Minister said: “I don’t want to overstate this because the pressure on our NHS continues to be acute and is likely to be so for some time yet, but we think we may have some cautious grounds for optimism that admissions to hospital are starting to tail off slightly.”

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Sturgeon confirmed that a further four people have died in Scotland after being diagnosed with coronavirus.

The death toll of those who had tested positive now stands at 5709, however weekly figures on suspected Covid-19 deaths recorded by National Records of Scotland suggest the most up-to-date total is at least 7448.

Total confirmed cases of the virus has risen to 172,953 – a jump of 752 in the past 24 hours

The daily test positivity rate is 8.6%, up from the 7.4% reported on Sunday when 1195 cases were recorded.

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Of the new cases reported on Monday, 224 are in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde region, 138 are in Lanarkshire and 87 are in Ayrshire and Arran.

The rest of the cases are spread out across ten other health board areas.

Sturgeon said there has been “early evidence” that lockdown measures across the majority of Scotland are working.

She said: “We are seeing some early evidence that these restrictions are working, which is positive.

“We think they are starting to reduce case numbers and while it will take a bit of time yet to feed properly into admissions to hospital and ICU, we also hope that we might be starting to see some early positive signs too.”

As of 8.30am on Monday, 415,402 people have received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

The First Minister said the Scottish Government is on track to meet its target for the vaccination of everyone over the age of 70, which has been set for the middle of February.

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Sturgeon told the briefing that 95% of residents in adult care homes and 95% of health workers have now been vaccinated, with 46% of all people over the age of 80 given a jab, up by 9% since Friday.

From Monday, Scots aged between 70 and 79 will receive letters inviting them for their inoculation.

The First Minister said: “It’s in your interests and obviously in everybody else’s interest for you to accept the appointment and get vaccinated as soon as possible.”


Singer’s online show interrupted by police after complaint

Marion Tillbrook was in the middle of singing Rainy Days and Mondays by The Carpenters when officers chapped on her door.

Marion Tillbrook via Facebook / SNS Group via SNS Group
Police: Officers interrupted Marion Tillbrook's online show.

Police called to break up a house party instead interrupted a one-woman online show.

Marion Tillbrook was in the middle of singing Rainy Days and Mondays by The Carpenters when officers chapped on her door in Edinburgh on Friday night.

Ms Tillbrook, who was streaming her performance on Facebook Live, said she got a “fright” when she opened her door to find six officers waiting outside.

Police checked the flat for partygoers in response to a complaint, but soon left after concluding Covid restrictions had not been breached.

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Ms Tillbrook told STV News: “I have to say they were really nice. 

“They took a look round the house to make sure I wasn’t having a party then left.

“The police were happy enough to let me continue as long as I turned it down a little.”

Ms Tillbrook, who has lived in the Leith flat for more than a decade, has been performing on Facebook Live since last May.

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She said: “It helps my mental health and cheers people up in these dark times.

“I’ve been a singer for 20 years. Covid has turned my life upside down and these lives give me a purpose.”

Ms Tillbrook, who previously asked her neighbours for permission to perform at home, said this is the first police complaint.

She added: “I did have some woman come screaming at my door in July, but she was gone by the time I got outside to see who she was. 

“That was during my Sunday show which I stopped as I didn’t want to upset anyone.”

Following Friday night’s incident, the singer contemplated stopping her shows completely but has since decided to carry on after speaking with her neighbours and online viewers.

Ms Tillbrook said: “I understand people may find it loud, although I do monitor the volume throughout but I’m very approachable. 

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“I do these lives to give folk a wee boost. 

“I have elderly parents who watch. My dad in particular is very ill and housebound so this is the only way he gets to watch me perform. 

“I do 90 minutes on a Friday night. I’ve picked a time slot – 7pm until 8.30pm – earlier in the evening so as to try and not disturb people. 

“I just want to bring a smile to people’s faces for a bit because let’s face it, there really isn’t much to smile about right now.”

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “Around 7.30pm on Friday, police received a report of a potential Covid breach at a property in Dickson Street, Edinburgh.

“Officers attended, however no restrictions were being breached.”


‘We’re not coping’, say parents of children with special needs

Parents call for schools for pupils with additional needs to be reopened.

STV News

Parents of children with special needs are having to deal with increasing levels of violence in their home because of a lack of support during lockdown. 

Charities are calling for Scotland’s additional needs schools to be reopened fully, as they are in the rest of the UK.

They also want staff to be given the Covid vaccine as a matter of priority to help relieve stress on families.

For ten-year-old Dillan, the loss of routine has meant his world has collapsed. He has Down’s Syndrome and no understanding of lockdown.

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His parents are juggling work with caring for him and their four-year-old, meaning their daughter has had to find her own way around home schooling.

The changes are already having an impact on Dillan’s behaviour.

His mum Maya said: “He is just not understanding and not coping well with the situation.

“We are trying not to focus on that behaviour when it happens and we just try to keep him safe and reassure him that things are going to change back to normal.”

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Ross is attending school just two days a week. The break in routine has led to bursts of violence and he recently kicked three holes in his bedroom wall.

“It’s really really tough and it’s really tough for Ross too,” his mum Carol said. “It’s just tough for all of us. He needs routine, familiarity. He needs his things back that he knows.”

Special schools have remained open in the rest of the UK, but the picture is patchy in Scotland, where they mostly closed until at least the middle of February.

The Scottish Government said pupils with additional needs could return in the first phase of reopening.

Children’s minister Maree Todd said: “We are now thinking about how quickly and how soon can we get children and young people back into school settings and how many can we get in.

“Children with additional support needs are at the forefront of our thinking there because we recognise just how hard it is for them not to be in school.”


Crown Office urged to launch SNP chief ‘perjury’ probe

Labour and Tories say Peter Murrell's evidence to Holyrood committee should be investigated.

PA Media
Peter Murrell appeared before a committee investigating complaints against Alex Salmond.

Scottish Labour and the Scottish Conservatives have urged the Crown Office to investigate whether the SNP’s chief executive has “committed perjury”.

Peter Murrell appeared before the committee set up to scrutinise the botched handling of complaints against Alex Salmond in December.

Previously, text messages had come to light from him regarding the Alex Salmond allegations but Mr Murrell, husband of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, said no other messages in the same vein existed.

The committee set up to lead the inquiry last week issued an unprecedented Section 23 order to the Crown Office to secure the release of documentation, including text or WhatApp messages between SNP chief operating officer Sue Ruddick and anyone in the Scottish Government about the sexual harassment complaints procedure.

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Scottish Labour interim leader Jackie Baillie said on Monday: “The Crown Office has indicated to the committee that they have text and WhatsApp messages.

“This was raised by Gordon Jackson QC at the preliminary hearing of the criminal trial of Alex Salmond, and Nicola Sturgeon said in an interview yesterday with Andrew Marr that there were no more relevant messages, suggesting that there are other messages.

“However, it is not her place to decide this – it is for the committee to make that call.

“The committee is also aware of information placed in the public domain that text and WhatsApp messages exist – just not the content of those messages.”

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In a letter to high court Procurator Fiscal Kenny Donnelly, Baillie said an “urgent” investigation into Mr Murrell’s statements should be launched.

She wrote: “Given that his evidence was taken under oath, I regard this as a very serious matter and I understand from parliamentary lawyers that committing perjury is considered to be a criminal offence.

“As the Crown Office have all the text and Whatsapp messages secured during the evidence-gathering phase of the criminal trial against Alex Salmond, you will be in a position to know whether any more exist than the two already in the public domain.

“If that is the case, and particularly if there are more in which Mr Murrell is involved, I am concerned that his evidence to the committee was not accurate.

“I would therefore be very grateful if you would confirm that you will undertake an urgent investigation into whether Peter Murrell has committed perjury.”

The Crown Office said it would respond to Baillie “in due course”.

The Scottish Tories have backed calls for the investigation, with Murdo Fraser – a member of the committee – saying: “The SNP’s story changes every time they or their civil servants appear in front of the Salmond inquiry.

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“What is clear is that Peter Murrell’s story simply does not add up and he has serious questions to answer.

“It is time we got to the truth of the matter about what senior SNP figures knew and when, rather than them trying to decide what is relevant information.

“The Crown Office must urgently investigate the SNP chief executive’s evidence in order to guarantee that this committee was presented with a true version of events.”


Woman, 91, found dead after fire rips through house

Emergency services were alerted to the blaze in Main Street, Crossmichael, at around 4am on Monday.

© Google Maps 2020
Crossmichael: Emergency services were alerted to the blaze on Monday morning.

A 91-year-old woman has died following a house fire in Dumfries and Galloway

Emergency services were alerted to the blaze in Main Street, Crossmichael, at around 4am on Monday.

Police said the pensioner was pronounced dead at the scene.

Enquiries into the cause of the fire are ongoing.

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A Police Scotland spokesman said: “Emergency services were called to the report of a house fire in Main Street in Crossmichael at around 4am this morning.

“The fire was extinguished by the fire and rescue service. 

“The sole occupant of the house, a 91-year-old woman, was pronounced dead at the scene. 

“Enquiries into the cause of the fire are ongoing and a full report will be submitted to the Procurator Fiscal in due course.” 


Baby tyrannosaurs were ‘size of Border Collie dog’

A project led by Scots researcher has found that baby tyrannosaurs were only the size of a border collie dog when taking their first steps.

University of Edinburgh
An artist's impression of how a baby tyrannosaur might have looked.

Baby tyrannosaurs were only the size of a Border Collie dog when they took their first steps, a team of palaeontologists has discovered.

Led by Dr Greg Funston, a University of Edinburgh researcher, the team examined fossilised remains of a tiny jaw bone and claw which had been found in Canada and the US.

They were revealed to belong to a baby tyrannosaur – cousin of the fabled T-Rex – in 3D scans and are the first-known fossils of tyrannosaur embryos.

It suggests the creatures which lived more than 70 million years ago were only around three-feet long when they hatched, despite being able to grow to 40ft long and weigh around eight tonnes.

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The team has also estimated that tyrannosaur eggs – remains of which have never been found – were around 17 inches long.

Distinctive tyrannosaur features were found in analysis of the three-centimetre long jaw bone, including a “pronounced chin”, which the team say suggests physical traits were also present before they hatched.

Dr Funston, of the university’s School of GeoSciences, said: “These bones are the first window into the early lives of tyrannosaurs and they teach us about the size and appearance of baby tyrannosaurs.

“We now know that they would have been the largest hatchlings to ever emerge from eggs and they would have looked remarkably like their parents – both good signs for finding more material in the future.”

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The study is published in the Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences and was supported by the Royal Society, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and National Science Foundation.

Researchers from the universities of Alberta, Calgary, Montana State and Chapman were also involved.


Vaccine letters start for over 70s as blue envelopes delayed

White windowed envelopes, with a distinctive black NHS logo on the right, will be used as a temporary measure.

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Covid-19: The fight to stop the spread of the deadly virus goes on.

Coronavirus vaccination appointment letters for Scots aged 70-79 will be delivered from Monday, but plans to use distinctive blue envelopes have been delayed.

Health secretary Jeane Freeman initially urged people to look out for the “very distinctive” blue envelopes, however on Sunday evening the Scottish Government announced that they weren’t ready.

White windowed envelopes, with a distinctive black NHS logo on the right, will be used as a temporary measure and are being given priority by Royal Mail.

The Scottish Government said the change will have “absolutely no impact” on the vaccination programme timetable.

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According to its vaccine deployment plan, the 70-79 age group should receive their first dose by mid-February.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We continue to strongly urge everyone in the 70-79 age group to check all their post in the coming weeks and take up the offer of the vaccine when it is received.

“Patients may receive a phone call invitation from their local health board as part of the appointment process and all patients aged 75-79 in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde will be invited via phone.”

A new booking system is also being used by several health boards to schedule appointments for patients in order of priority.

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Greater Glasgow, Lanarkshire and Lothian are among the NHS boards that will use the system.

Vaccinations for the over 80s are continuing, with that group on track to receive their first dose of the vaccine by the end of the first week in February.


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