The way forward
During the summer, as the vaccine programme rolls out further, we hope and expect that individuals, businesses and citizens will get back to much more normality. The focus will increasingly switch from COVID-19 response to recovery. Whilst life may not look quite like it did before the pandemic as we move beyond Level 0, the vaccine roll-out means that we'll be able to get back to doing many of the things we enjoyed – and perhaps even took for granted – before the advent of COVID-19. For example, friends and family will be able to gather together for long-deferred celebrations; large-scale events will return; venues such as nightclubs will re-open and businesses will get back to operating closer to full capacity.
It is important to note that reaching the stage of lifting levels restrictions will not signal the end of the epidemic but it will mean that businesses and individuals can get on with their lives with reduced impact from COVID-19.
Our journey to this point has required fortitude, sacrifice and shared endeavour. Whilst we still need to persevere a little while longer to reach the stage beyond Level 0, moving steadily and cautiously will allow us to be as confident as possible that when we get there, we can keep moving forward.
Beyond Level 0, we will continue to build on the commitment and solidarity the people of Scotland have shown throughout the pandemic, promoting collective action to keep ourselves and each other safe as part of a 'We are Scotland' approach. We will ensure that our guidance and public health information continues to be clear and accessible, allowing people to manage risks as we move away from prescriptive rules towards an approach based more on personal judgement.
Continued vigilance will of course be needed to ensure risks associated with the importation and spread of new strains of the virus are managed beyond Level 0. In practice, this will mean that we will need to persevere further, at least in the medium-term, with the application of border measures and that we will continue to promote and support continued engagement with testing and self-isolation. Going forward, we will continue to keep our approach to responding to COVID-19 under regular review, informed by the latest scientific advice, including input from the UK Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE) and our own COVID-19 Advisory Group.
To ensure that we best prepare for future public health emergencies, we will establish a Standing Committee on Pandemic Preparedness later this summer. We have also committed to establishing a statutory public inquiry into Scotland's COVID-19 response as soon as possible and, in addition, will work cooperatively as far as possible on any UK-wide public inquiry.
As our new strategic intent makes clear, we are also determined to continue to alleviate the various harms of COVID-19, while we enable Scotland to recover and rebuild for a better future. Working together to keep ourselves and each other safe, ensuring that we learn lessons from the pandemic and remaining on our guard against new strains of the virus will provide us with a firm basis to transition from our COVID-19 response to our recovery from the crisis.
Our recovery will be driven by an ambitious programme to build a modern, high-tech economy, whilst ensuring that our recovery is fair, green and sustainable, continuing to be guided by our National Performance Framework – with a determination to emerge from this crisis as a stronger and fairer society, building on the common purpose, sense of community and good practice that has been so evident within our COVID-19 response.