17:11 GMT01 October 2020
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    British media earlier reported that the Scottish first minister was set to announce a set of measures to ease the lockdown in Scotland independently from the UK government.

    A return to normal life in Scotland is unlikely to happen in the near future, even if the toughest lockdown measures are lifted, Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told the press at a news conference on Thursday.

    Unveiling a blueprint for how Scotland will begin easing lockdown restrictions, the minister said that social distancing measures could continue to apply for the rest of this year and even beyond.

    "A return to normal as we knew it is not on the cards in the near future... What we will be seeking to do is find a new normal - a way of living alongside this virus but in a form that keeps it under control", Sturgeon said.

    The first minister stressed that she wanted to have a "grown up conversation" with the Scottish population about lifting restrictions on daily life.

    Sturgeon added that the lockdown restrictions should be taken down gradually, but that they could be reapplied again if lifting them has undesired results.

    "...Talk of lifting the lockdown, as if it's a flick of a switch moment, is misguided," she said, "Given how severely this virus is affecting older people and those with other health vulnerabilities, some form of shielding will almost certainly be required for the foreseeable future."

    Sturgeon's statement comes as the UK government has repeatedly faced calls to issue a lockdown exit strategy.

    The UK introduced lockdown measures a month ago, on 23 March. Last week, Dominic Raab, who is substituting for Boris Johnson while the latter recovers from the coronavirus, stated that the measures will remain in place until May.

    The UK has registered 129,048 cases of the new coronavirus and 17,337 fatalities, the WHO reported at 2:00 pm CEST.

    coronavirus, COVID-19, lockdown, Scotland
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