Commenting on the First Minister’s statement to the Scottish Parliament today (Thursday 30 July) on the next phase of lockdown easing, South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth said:

“We’ve seen first-hand in Dumfries and Galloway that this terrible virus is still out there, and we cannot become complacent.

“While the further lifting of lockdown measures will be welcomed by many, we must take precautions to keep ourselves and our communities safe. We need to continue to act responsibly and use common sense.

“The fall in cases will be little consolation for families who sadly lost loved ones to Covid-19 and I know many people will rightly ask the Government why measures implemented now such as test and trace weren’t put in place in March at the start of the pandemic.

“We must never forget this pandemic has killed many people and ultimately saving lives is the most important consideration in everything we do.

“Parents and carers will be happy to hear that schools are set to return full time in August, however, after so many months out of education and away from their peers, it is essential the Scottish Government does all it can to help our councils support children and young people to get used to being back in a school environment.

“We don’t yet know what impact lockdown will have had on mental health among our children and without proper attention, it could become a serious issue and its clear with five months out of the classroom the attainment gap will have risen. We need a clear plan from the Government what support will be given to support pupils to catch up or that gap will get wider.

“However, while the First Minister’s prioritisation of schools returning is understandable, this will not be much consolation for indoor gyms, theatres and non-essential offices who have to wait even longer than expected before they can reopen as a result of the decision not to move into phase 4 . Many people will rightly ask why on one hand pubs have been able to reopen but indoor gyms are still waiting.

“It is clear that it will be a long time before our region is back to where it was before the pandemic and until then I will continue to push the Scottish Government for more support for individuals and businesses. What began as a health crisis has also become an economic crisis, with unemployment set to rise in the months ahead.”

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