Construction workers to ‘gradually’ return to sites

Nicola Sturgeon says she is 'very hopeful' Scotland can move to phase two of its lockdown exit strategy.

Construction workers will be able to “gradually” return to building sites, Nicola Sturgeon has announced.

Since phase one out of lockdown began at the end of May, work to prepare construction sites for the return of workers has been under way.

Speaking at the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing on Thursday, the First Minister said she is “very hopeful” Scotland can begin the move to phase two in a week’s time.

But she said the government has judged it can “make further progress now” on construction work in Scotland.

Workers can begin to return to construction sites, with hand hygiene measures and social distancing in place, but the FM insisted there is still “a long way to go” until construction is back to normal.

She thanked trade unions and employers in the sector for their “responsible” approach so far during phase one on preparatory work and health and safety planning.

In England and Wales, construction work has been permitted over the course of the lockdown.

In Scotland, all construction sites were closed except works considered essential, such as hospitals or other critical infrastructure.

But the route map out of lockdown provides a two-stage plan for construction to gradually resume.

Other measures expected to be eased from June 18, if Scotland moves into phase two, include allowing indoor meetings between two households, and outdoor meetings between more than two households.

Beer gardens and restaurants and cafes with outdoor spaces should be allowed to reopen these areas, along with outdoor markets and small non-essential retail shops.

It comes as the First Minister revealed the estimated R number – of reproduction rate – of the virus in Scotland is between 0.6 and 0.8, meaning the epidemic is shrinking.

New daily cases overnight were 17, while five people with the virus died.

Just over 900 people are in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid, the lowest figure since March 29.

Sturgeon said: “We need to celebrate the progress, but continue to be careful and cautious.

“A week today we will have a further review of the lockdown restrictions.

“I am currently very hopeful that at that point we will be able to lift some further restrictions.”

She also said she has “not closed her mind” to the possibility of reducing the two-metre rule on social distancing amid an ongoing debate over whether one metre is sufficient.

But the FM stressed the two-metre guidance would stay in place for now, as per current expert guidance.

It comes after her tourism secretary announced firms in the sector – including hotels, B&Bs, pubs, restaurants, museums and art galleries – should prepare to reopen from July 15.

It is hoped at that stage Scotland will be in phase three of its lockdown exit strategy.

But the Scottish Beer and Pub Association has warned two-metre social distancing would be financially unviable, claiming up to two-thirds of pubs could have to remain shut.

Sturgeon also announced an extension of the Scottish Government’s help-to-buy scheme.

The initiative, which provides up to 15% of the price of buying a new-build house, was due to end in March next year but has now been extended to March 2022.

STV News is now on WhatsApp

Get all the latest news from around the country

Follow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp

Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country

WhatsApp channel QR Code