On Thursday, 28 May, the Scottish Government is planning to lift some of the restrictions that have been in place since March. This will mark the beginning of 'Phase 1' of the lockdown exit strategy

In order to enter the first phase, the following conditions had to be met:

  • The virus has not yet been fully contained, and there is a continued risk of overwhelming the NHS capacity without lockdown restrictions continuing;
  • The R infection number has been below 1 for at least 2 weeks prior and the number of infections starting to decline;
  • Sustained reductions in hospital admissions, ICU admissions, and deaths;
  • Testing capacity increased alongside the implementation of digital systems for contact tracing (this is called the Test and Protect” scheme in Scotland).

In Phase 1, several of the lockdown rules change. They cover a wide range of areas, which you can see the full detail of on the Scottish Government’s website here. We are hoping to outline what is most relevant for our members.

Pastoral visits
We are planning in this phase to change regulations to permit people to use public outdoor spaces for recreational purposes, for example to sit in a public space. We are also planning for one household to meet up with another household outdoors, in small numbers, including in gardens, but with physical distancing required. We expect no public gatherings except for meetings of two households and only outdoors and with physical distancing.”

This is an important change for the health of the church. It means that outdoor pastoral visits can take place at a physical distance, such as in back gardens, in the street or in a park. This will provide social and spiritual respite especially to those who live alone. However, the overall closure of places of worship will remain until Phase 2 (with the current exemptions of conducting funerals, recording acts of worship and the offerings of essential community services such as food banks).

Social work
We are planning the gradual resumption of key support services in the community. We are expecting to restart face-to-face Children’s Hearings and for there to be greater direct contact for social work and support services with at-risk groups and families, and for there to be access to respite/​day care to support unpaid carers and for families with a disabled family member. All of these would involve appropriate physical distancing and hygiene measures.”

This will be an important step for many households. We are particularly thankful that social workers will be able to carry out vital home visits in the community with greater ease. Phase 1 will also allow churches who offer equivalent services to vulnerable people (such as recovery support) to begin thinking about how they might restart these services in Phases 2 and 3.

Local business
In this phase we are planning the gradual opening of drive through food outlets as well as the re-opening of garden centres and plant nurseries with physical distancing. Associated cafes (e.g. in garden centres) should not reopen at this stage except for take away…we are planning to allow unrestricted outdoor exercise adhering to distancing measures and non-contact outdoor activities in the local area — such as golf, hiking, canoeing, outdoor swimming, angling.”

We would encourage you that if your financial and health conditions are secure, to begin to support local businesses that are able to open through shopping locally and making use of the outdoors for exercise.

In due course we will produce a further article to help churches think about the changes that will take place during Phases 2 and 3. But for now, if you have any further queries on what Phase 1 means for you and your church, do get in touch with us.