Criteria for future lockdowns: FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002

Information requested

What criteria will be used to assess whether to apply a lockdown in future and how will this criteria be applied to other viruses such as flu?’


The Scottish Government is committed to openness and transparency as we consider the options for Scotland in mitigating the harms from the COVID-19 crisis – that is why we have published COVID-19: 
A Framework for Decision Making insert link. This sets out the approach and principles which will guide us as we take decisions to ease or indeed reinstate lockdown restrictions in Scotland. The principles which guide how we make our decisions are included below:

  • Safe - We will ensure that transmission of the virus remains suppressed and that our NHS and care services are not overwhelmed.
  • Lawful - We will respect the rule of law which will include ensuring that any restrictions are justified, necessary and proportionate.
  • Evidence-based - We will use the best available evidence and analysis.
  • Fair & Ethical We will uphold the principles of human dignity, autonomy, respect and equality.
  • Clear - We will provide clarity to the public to enable compliance, engagement and accountability.
  • Realistic - We will consider the viability and effectiveness of options.
  • Collective - We will work with our partners and stakeholders, including the UK Government and other Devolved Nations, ensuring that we meet the specific needs of Scotland.

The lockdown measures set out in emergency legislation have been carefully considered and informed by medical and scientific advice and are necessary to protect public health in Scotland.  Consideration of the impact on human rights, and the need to protect those rights has been central to that decision-making process.

On 7th May 2020 the Scottish Government published an overview of key analysis and evidence COVID-19: A Framework for Decision Making – supporting evidence. The publication draws together data and evidence on the various harms and wider impacts – health, societal and economic – caused by the crisis. Evidence is collated from a range of sources, and is brought together with experience and insights from other countries and our stakeholders.

The publication explains how the primary objective at this point is to ensure that the reproduction rate of the virus (the R number) remains less than 1 and that cases remain within NHS capacity. The reproduction number is a measure of the contagiousness or transmissibility of a virus – in other words, the number of cases each infected person passes the virus on to.

On 21st May 2020, the Scottish Government published Coronavirus (COVID-19): framework for decision making - Scotland's route map through and out of the crisis .This route map takes an evidence-led and transparent approach to easing restrictions and sets out a phased approach towards the future. The publication sets out clear criteria which will have to be met to move between phases as we transition through the crisis.

Every three weeks, the Scottish Government will review and report on whether and to what extent, we can move from one phase to another, informed by and adhering to the World Health Organisations six criteria for easing restrictions.

On 29th May the Scottish Government published an assessment of the evidence on the criteria for progressing to Phase 1 of Scotland's route map through and out of the crisis. Coronavirus (COVID-19): framework for decision making - supporting evidence for moving to phase 1 

In relation to how this criteria will be applied to other viruses such as flu, the Scottish Government has a robust framework for planning and preparing for viruses including flu, as set out in Pandemic Flu: A Scottish framework for responding to an influenza pandemic .

Pandemic Flu planning key aspects are set out in 2011 UK/4 Nation Pandemic FluStrategy.
Individual NHS Boards have pandemic flu plans based on this guidance – and are also expected to plan locally on a multi-agency basis – with Resilience Partnerships and Health and Social Care Partnerships.

The Scottish Government operates a Pandemic Flu Preparedness Board (PFPB) which provides oversight of pandemic flu preparedness in Scotland. This includes improvements on key issues such as: health and social care; legislative easements; excess deaths, sector resilience; communications and SG Organisational Preparedness. In due course, the PFPB will consider what lessons we can gather from the response to COVID-19 to improve pandemic planning and preparedness in Scotland.

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