ENDING the lockdown will not mean “returning to how things were before the virus,” the Scottish Government has warned, telling Scots they will need to adapt to the “new normal” of living with coronavirus.

In a report published today, the government said that when restrictions are eased, people may need to observe some form of social distancing for months, if not years. 

That could include the most vulnerable needing to remain "shielded" and not allowed to leave the house.

Nicola Sturgeon told reporters at the launch of the document that classrooms in Scotland's schools could be redesigned and that maybe not all “children can go back to school at the same time.”

While some “limited outdoor activity may be able to restart earlier than indoor activity," other "big gatherings and events are likely to be off for some months to come".

Pubs will likely need to remain closed, and Christmas "may happen slightly differently" than in previous years. 

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Speaking at the daily coronavirus briefing, the First Minister said: "As we start to lift the restrictions, the real risk is that Covid-19 runs rampant again.

"So a return to normal as we knew it is not on the cards in the near future and it's really important that I am upfront with you about that.

"What we must do is find a new normal, a way of living alongside this virus but in a form that keeps it under control and stops it taking the toll we know it can do."

Sturgeon was clear that the paper was a "first cut", a living document that will change as the evidence develops.

The document also makes clear that while the Scottish Government will “operate within a four nation UK framework” they will “take distinctive decisions for Scotland if the evidence tells us that is necessary.”

But there could also be "distinctive decisions" for different parts of Scotland, with the government saying there could be variations by “geography, by sector, or by specific groups of the population”.

Ministers say there needs to be a balance between lifting restrictions and avoiding a second “uncontrolled peak that would require a return to lockdown to avoid enormous loss of life and the overwhelming of our health and care system.”

Part of the easing of the restrictions will involve ramping up testing and contact tracing. 

The report states: "Our assessment is that now is not the right time to relax restrictions."

It adds: "If, after easing any restrictions, the evidence tells us we are unable to contain the transmission of the virus then we will have to reimpose them, possibly returning to lockdown with little notice.

"While we will do our best to avoid this, it is possible that such a cycle may happen more than once until we reach a point when we have in place an effective vaccine."

The report goes into more detailing, stating: "Over the next few weeks, based on the evidence and expert advice, a number of options will be considered - not all of which may be selected.

"These are likely to include the easing of restrictions in a phased manner, opening up different parts of the economy sector by sector, considering different restrictions in different areas dependent on how the pandemic is progressing and considering options for different groups of the population - as is currently the case with those shielded for clinical reasons.

"It may be that restrictions on some outdoor activity are eased before those on indoor activities - however, all of this will be evidence-led."

It adds: "Easing restrictions will not mean returning to how things were before the virus.

"Physical distancing, hand hygiene, and other critical behaviours will be essential in each sector."