Scots will be “expected” to wear face coverings on public transport as the lockdown begins to be eased, the transport secretary has said.
Michael Matheson said two-metre social distancing would be in place on buses, trains and trams across Scotland but accepted on some journeys this would not always be possible.
Updating MSPs on the Scottish Government’s plan for public transport, published on Tuesday, he said passengers should wear a mask or cloth covering over their mouth and nose as an “additional measure”.
He also said social distancing on public transport – even as Scotland moves through the first three phases of its four-stage plan to exit lockdown – would mean operators using 25% or less of its normal capacity.
Phase one of the Scottish Government’s strategy to lift coronavirus restrictions is expected to begin on Friday.
Matheson told MSPs: “It can be difficult for people to maintain physical distancing throughout their journey on some forms of public transport.
“I know from my discussions with the trade unions, operators and surveys of public sentiment that these are real and live concerns.
“For that reason, people should, and are expected to, wear face coverings as an additional measure when using public transport and as a consideration to staff and other passengers.”
He said there were special circumstances where people should not wear face coverings, such as young children and asthmatics.
As the country eases lockdown, the transport secretary said it was of “paramount importance” that everyone takes personal responsibility for their own safety and those of others.
He told MSPs: “The level of physical distancing needed as we navigate the phases of the route map will obviously affect the supply of public transport capacity, with operators estimating that two-metre physical distancing means capacity is somewhere between 10% and 25% of normal.”
Matheson added that there would be substantial constraints on the pre-pandemic journey numbers of about 1.5 million a day.
A Scotland Office minister who resigned over the Dominic Cummings row says he “can’t get his head around” the special adviser’s claim he drove 60 miles to test his eyesight.
Moray MP Douglas Ross said while he understood some of Mr Cummings’ explanations for his actions during lockdown, his trip from Durham to Barnard Castle is “the bit that I really can’t go out there and defend”.
Ross quit the UK Government on Tuesday morning the day after Boris Johnson’s top adviser sought to explain himself in a highly unusual Downing Street press conference.
In his resignation letter, he told the Prime Minister he could not “in good faith” defend Mr Cummings’ actions to his constituents.
It followed a weekend of revelations that he had travelled from his London home to Durham on a 260-mile trip with his wife and young child after she had developed Covid-19 symptoms.
He said he had been concerned about getting childcare if both he and his wife had become incapacitated with coronavirus, saying family members in Durham had offered to help.
Speaking on Monday, Mr Cummings also confirmed reports he had driven 30 miles to a beauty spot with his family on April 12, his wife’s birthday.
The Number 10 adviser said at that stage, he had been cleared to return to work, but had been having problems with his eyesight he believed may have been linked to coronavirus.
He and his wife agreed to take the 60-mile round trip to Barnard Castle to test that he was able to drive, he said, taking their young child with them.
Speaking to STV News on Tuesday, Ross indicated the PM had tried to convince him to stay.
But he said he had told Johnson that because of his “ongoing concerns”, his decision to resign “couldn’t change”.
On Mr Cummings’ statement, the former Scotland Office minister said: “He took an immediate decision late at night to protect his family and I can understand why people would do that.
“But I also represent people who didn’t take that decision, who didn’t make that choice, who followed strictly the government guidance.
“And there was one overriding issue I can’t get my head around… if you are struggling with your vision, you don’t travel for 30 minutes to test your vision and then travel 30 minutes back again.
“That’s the bit that I really can’t go out there and defend and say I agree with this.”
The Moray MP continued: “Ultimately, I had to make a decision and as a government minister you have to defend the government.
“Therefore, I’m able to express my concerns now outwith government.”
He said he had been feeding the views of his constituents and his own through the appropriate Downing Street channels during the weekend.
Ross added: “I spoke to the Prime Minister last night and I was grateful that he took the opportunity to speak to me and to thank me for what I’d done in the Scotland Office.
“But I also said I have these ongoing concerns that I haven’t received answers to and therefore my decision couldn’t change.”
He has been joined by a raft of senior Conservative figures north and south of the border calling for Mr Cummings to lose his job, including Scottish Tory leader Jackson Carlaw and a number of senior MSPs.
Recently retired teachers could be asked to return to work once schools begin reopening, the education secretary has said.
Councils will also be asked to expand their school estate to include community facilities and vacant office accommodation ahead of the slated August 11 return to accommodate social distancing, John Swinney said.
Addressing MSPs, he said a “cautious” approach will be taken to reopening schools as the coronavirus lockdown eases.
He said children would initially be sent to school part-time, for “as long as required but not a moment longer”, blending it with at-home learning
Swinney updated parliament by video-link on the Scottish Government’s plans to open schools in August publishing the scientific guidance which ministers had received.
The guidance said some studies had suggested a lower transmission rate for Covid-19 among children but that the evidence for this was “inconclusive”.
It said an earlier return of schooling could lead to a higher rate of infection in the country.
The education secretary said £9m had been set aside to buy 25,000 laptops for pupils to help with “blended learning” – as they will be required to do more work from home to support social distancing.
He said he could not see schools reopening any earlier than August 11, though early learning facilities may open over the summer.
Swinney also told MSPs recently-retired teachers could be asked to return to work.
He said: “School closures are considered to have a negative effect on all aspects of children and young people’s progress and development, as well as their wellbeing.
“That is why we are working to enable as many children and young people as possible to return to education and care settings at the earliest date it is safe to do so.
“The scientific evidence and advice is an important part of that decision, alongside consideration of the other harms caused by ongoing restrictions.
“That is why I have published a summary of the scientific evidence which has informed our discussions and decisions to date.”
Swinney continued: “The evidence around coronavirus in general, and that relating to children in particular, is continuing to evolve.
“Some aspects are not yet well understood – the science cannot in many cases provide us with definitive conclusions.
“The scientific advice that we have received so far leads us towards taking a cautious approach and we will continue to monitor the evidence and advice to inform decisions.”
The scientific guidance modelled Scotland’s R number – the rate of infection – based on schools returning on August 13, with around 5000 infectious people in Scotland.
This simulation estimated that Scotland’s R number would remain at 0.85 before and after schools reopened.
However the report added: “Due to the top of the confidence range being close to one, caution is needed.
“Lifting other interventions (e.g. on economy or social restrictions) at the same time would need careful consideration as the impact of interventions on R is cumulative and could raise R over one.”
If you develop Covid-19 symptoms you should seek to immediately book a test from Thursday, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
Scotland’s system to test, trace and isolate all suspected coronavirus cases will go live in two days, the First Minister confirmed.
Sturgeon said the scheme, dubbed “test and protect”, will work alongside plans to begin gradually easing the lockdown from the end of this week.
From Thursday, anyone who has symptoms of coronavirus will be tested and their contacts traced and told to isolate for 14 days.
A policy of testing all suspected cases of the virus was abandoned in March when all four nations of the UK moved to the second “delay phase” of its coronavirus strategy, against the advice of the World Health Organisation.
The First Minister said that from Thursday, if you develop symptoms you should book a test “straight away” through the NHS Inform website or by calling NHS 24’s coronavirus helpline 0800 028 2816.
Sturgeon said: “The aim of test and protect is to quickly identify cases of the virus and then act to break the chains of transmission.”
She described the new system as being “an extremely important tool for us in the months ahead”, adding: “It will help us suppress the virus as we slowly ease lockdown restrictions.”
Public health software, already used to trace the contacts of those with other infectious diseases, has been scaled up, Sturgeon said.
This has now been trialled in Fife, Lanarkshire and the Highlands, and will be up and running in all health board areas by Thursday.
The Scottish Government had previously said testing capacity of over 15,000 tests a day would be needed for the new scheme to come into effect, a capacity that including NHS labs and others Sturgeon said had now been met.
She had also set the target of having 2000 contact tracers in place for the start of June, but stated it is currently estimated only 700 tracers would be needed initially.
The First Minister added that by the end of this month there would be “a pool of around 2000 to draw on if necessary”.
She said: “This is a system that will operate at a scale not seen before in Scotland.
“We have of course had testing and contact tracing before, but we are substantially increasing the scale.
“Over the first couple of weeks it will need to bed down but introducing it at the same time as we take the first very cautious steps out of lockdown gives us the opportunity to address any operational issues ahead of a potentially more substantial easing of restrictions at the next review date in three weeks.”
The announcements on testing and tracing come ahead of Scotland likely entering “phase one” of its four-stage plan to exit lockdown on Friday, expected to allow outdoor meetings between people from two households provided they socially distance.
Some outdoor sports and activities like golf, tennis and fishing will be permitted, and outdoor-based businesses like construction firms and garden centres will be allowed to resume work.
Later on Tuesday, transport secretary Michael Matheson will also make a parliamentary statement on the Scottish Government’s plan for public transport as the lockdown begins to ease.
But reiterating current advice, the First Minister said: “For now, all of us must continue to stick with the lockdown measures.
“So please stay at home, for now, except for essential purposes.
“When you do leave the house, please stay at least two metres away from others and don’t meet up with people from households other than your own.
“You should wear a face covering if you’re in an enclosed space such as a shop or public transport, and that is one of the issues that will be covered in the transport transition plan that the transport secretary will outline in the Scottish Parliament later this afternoon.”
Health secretary Jeane Freeman said she will reveal how many wards in Scotland have been shut down as a result of Covid-19 after being pressed on a “major outbreak” of the disease inside a Glasgow hospital.
Labour health spokeswoman Monica Lennon called for action as she questioned Freeman about “worrying reports” from Gartnavel Hospital.
Raising the issue in the Scottish Parliament, Lennon said: “Families affected by the outbreak have shared heart-breaking accounts of the loss of loved ones.
“David Colgan’s family were told he would be safe at Gartnavel. After being admitted to the hospital, Mr Colgan tested negative for Covid, he was however later struck down by the virus and died in the hospital alone.
“His daughter has said the ‘virus blew through the hospital like a draught’.”
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board papers “confirm over 20 ward closures occurred across March and April this year” in the area because of coronavirus, Lennon said.
She asked Freeman how many wards across Scotland had been shut down by outbreaks of the disease during the pandemic.
The health secretary said she did “not have the exact number in terms of the number of wards that were closed across all hospital settings” – but said she would “secure that number”.
She also expressed her sympathies to all those who had lost family members or loved ones.
She also told MSPs the 14-day incubation period for Covid-19 meant it was very difficult to tell if someone was clear of the disease or not when they are admitted to hospital.
Freeman said while a patient may “test negative at the point they are tested, that does not mean they are not incubating Covid-19”.
The health secretary added: “The 14-day incubation period does make it absolutely difficult to be certain about these matters.”
She said work was going on involving the Scottish Government, the other nations of the UK and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control to try to establish “international definitions for hospital-acquired Covid-19 infections” – cases where patients have caught the disease while being treated in hospital.
Coronavirus has claimed the lives of another 18 people in Scotland.
It takes the death toll among confirmed Covid-19 patients to 2291, although including suspected deaths the total is 3734.
Nicola Sturgeon also said 29 new cases of the virus had been confirmed overnight, taking the country’s total to 15,185.
However, this is the lowest number of new daily cases of Covid-19 recorded since March 17.
Speaking at the Scottish Government’s Tuesday press briefing, the First Minister cautioned the figures on deaths could be lower than usual due to the long bank holiday weekend.
The numbers in hospital with confirmed or suspected coronavirus have fallen by 69 overnight to stand at 1200.
There are four fewer patients in intensive care with Covid-19 or Covid-19 patients, down to 36.
A total of 3589 patients hospitalised with the virus since the pandemic began have been able to go home, the FM also confirmed.
She also said the government’s test, track and isolate scheme, called “test and protect” will go live on Thursday.
In addition, transport secretary Michael Matheson will address MSPs later on Tuesday outlining the Scottish Government’s plan for public transport as the lockdown begins to ease from the end of this week.
Hearts have pitched their latest proposal for league reconstruction, which suggests three leagues of 14 for the next two seasons. Owner Ann Budge sent the plans to SPFL clubs this afternoon ahead of the league’s board meeting tomorrow.
Budge has proposed temporarily changing the structure from four divisions to three divisions – each with 14 clubs – but has added the possibility of adding two clubs to the bottom tier.
That would save Hearts from relegation from the Premiership, with Dundee United and Inverness Caledonian Thistle promoted.
Budge has suggested three divisions of 14 for the next two years while acknowledging a number of lower-league teams might not be able to play at all next season given the costs of Covid-19 testing and playing behind closed doors.
Budge said in her document: “This is not about permanent reconstruction. It is about finding a path to deal with the emergency situation, which is likely to impact all member clubs for the next two seasons.
“When we are through this emergency we can look then at how best to move forward to start to rebuild Scottish football,” she added.
The Hearts document addresses two key issues facing Scottish football – the ‘unfairness and unjustness of relegating clubs’ due to the termination of the season and ‘the need to implement a more flexible league structure’ as they fight to survive the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The plan would also see the top flight splitting after the first two rounds of fixtures into a top six and bottom eight.
Budge’s proposal was welcomed by Dave Cormack, the chairman of Aberdeen.
He said: “We’ve consistently said we don’t believe major and permanent league reconstruction should be carried out in the midst of this crisis.
“However, Aberdeen has always been supportive of a temporary reconstruction to avoid the relegation of Hearts, Partick Thistle and Stranraer in this unprecedented situation.
“Given this is a temporary reconstruction plan, AFC is supportive in principle and, for the survival of Scottish football, I hope every club feels they can get behind this approach,” he added.