Nicola Sturgeon signals more cautious path out of lockdown for Scotland - what the First Minister said about Covid and Level 0

The First Minister said “we have to think carefully” about the steps at this stage, ahead of a planned announcement on Scotland moving to Level 0

Nicola Sturgeon offered a more cautious tone to Boris Johnson in her briefing today (8 July) on the coronavirus situation in Scotland.

The First Minister suggested that the high Covid case numbers seen recently in parts of Scotland may now be “levelling off”, but warned against an abrupt end to restrictions for Scots.

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Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon gave an update on Covid. (Photo by Andrew Milligan / POOL / AFP)
Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon gave an update on Covid. (Photo by Andrew Milligan / POOL / AFP)

At-a-glance: 5 key points

- The whole of Scotland is expected to move to Level 0 this month, before all remaining legal restrictions are lifted on 9 August ‘Freedom Day’.

- Ms Sturgeon suggested that the UK Government’s approach to dropping coronavirus regulations “is something of an exception” and indicated that measures like face masks and social distancing would remain, even in Level 0.

- The First Minister said she hopes all of Scotland will be able to move to Level 0 by July 19 as planned, but a decision on whether and to what extent this can happen will be announced at Holyrood on Tuesday.

- Scotland has recorded four deaths of coronavirus patients in the past 24 hours and 2,802 new cases. The death toll under this daily measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – is now 7,744. So far, 3,800,864 people in Scotland have received the first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine and 2,825,886 have had their second.

- Case numbers are now 1,432 lower than they were last Thursday, Ms Sturgeon said, adding that the seven-day average also appears to show a “slowdown in the rise of positive cases”.

What did Nicola Sturgeon say?

Referring to Boris Johnson’s announcement on Monday, the First Minister said: “It is worth pointing out the path the UK Government is embarking on for England – which is entirely a matter for them – a path of not just lifting all restrictions from July 19 but also removing the requirement for basic mitigations like face masks, and doing so against the backdrop of sharply increasing case numbers, is something of an exception.

“While I totally understood the desire some have for us to follow suit in every single step, we have to think carefully about the steps we do take at this juncture.

“My job is not to take the easy decisions in a quest for popularity, it is to do what I think is most likely to keep the country as safe as possible as we get to the end of the vaccination programme.

“Over the next few weeks, as we complete the vaccination programme, it is really important that we don’t let the virus outrun us.”

Ms Sturgeon warned “we cannot simply throw all caution to the wind and no longer worry at all about rising levels of infection”, citing concerns about pressures on the NHS which have already led to some services being cut back.

She also said the majority of cases are in young people and although they tend to have less severe infections, it would be “wrong and irresponsible, because our young people are not guinea pigs, to have no concern at all for young people infected with this virus”.

Background

The Prime Minister promised to tear up most of England’s coronavirus regulations at Step 4 of the road map on July 19, but Ms Sturgeon said many protections will be retained north of the border.

Throughout the pandemic, Scotland has largely followed the measures imposed by Westminster, with the exception of the Levels system.

Ms Sturgeon is now signalling a more cautious approach to the end of lockdown, following an alarming recent surge in cases in Scotland.

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