Nicola Sturgeon sets out summer changes to lockdown guidelines

Sturgeon at FMQs 2
FM Nicola Sturgeon

Summertime in sunny Scotland and Ireland where the pubs’ restaurants, guest houses, ice cream shops and cafes will be open to welcome visitors.

As it is Parliament’s final full week before a shortened summer recess, I take this opportunity to set out the Scottish Government’s latest assessment of when further changes to lockdown restrictions might take effect. However, I will begin with an update on the latest figures.

Since 9 o’clock yesterday morning, an additional nine cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed, which takes the total number to 18,191. A total of 880 patients are in hospital with suspected or confirmed Covid-19, which is an increase of 15 since yesterday. That includes a decrease of 23 in the number of confirmed cases. As of last night, 23 people were in intensive care with confirmed or suspected Covid-19, which is an increase of two on the number that I reported yesterday.

Unfortunately, in the past 24 hours, four deaths have been registered of patients who had been confirmed as having the virus, which takes the total number of deaths in Scotland under that measurement to 2,480.

In addition, National Records of Scotland has just published its more detailed weekly report. Those figures report deaths in which Covid-19 has been confirmed by laboratory tests, and cases in which the virus was entered on a death certificate as a suspected or contributory cause of death. The latest NRS report covers the period to Sunday 21 June. At that point, according to our daily figures, 2,472 deaths of people who had tested positive for the virus had been registered. However, today’s report shows that, by Sunday, the total number of registered deaths with either a confirmed or a presumed link to the virus was 4,119. Of those, 49 were registered in the seven days up to Sunday, which is a decrease from 69 in the previous week.

This is the eighth week in a row in which the number of deaths from the virus has fallen. The number of excess deaths, which is the number above the five-year average for the same time of year, was 39, which is up from 34 in the previous week. However, for context, I point out that the number of excess deaths 10 weeks ago was 878.

Deaths in care homes made up 41 per cent of the total number of Covid-19 deaths last week, and the number of Covid-19 deaths in care homes reduced again, from 35 to 20.

Those statistics tell of real and sustained progress. However, even though the number of deaths from Covid-19 is reducing, we must never become inured to the statistics. Every death that is represented in those numbers is a tragedy—it is the loss of a unique and loved individual. I send my condolences to everyone who is grieving as a result of the virus. I am also aware that talking about statistical trends will not provide those people with any consolation whatsoever. However, the trends are clear and, for all the pain that the virus is still causing and the real risk that it still poses, they are positive and give us confidence now to set some firmer milestones for our route out of lockdown.

The Scottish Government first published “Route map for moving out of lockdown” on 21 May, almost five weeks ago. The week before we did so, more than 300 people in Scotland died from the virus. At the peak of the epidemic back in April, 660 people died from the virus in a single week. As I have just reported, in the most recent week, the number of deaths has reduced to 49.

At the time of publishing the route map, the reproduction number was between 0.7 and 1; now, it is between 0.6 and 0.8. On 21 May, we estimated that 25,000 people in Scotland had the virus at that time and were capable of transmitting it to others. Our most recent estimate was that 2,900 people were infectious. I expect when we publish the updated assessment tomorrow that that number will have fallen further, to about 2,000.

Of course, that progress is due to people across Scotland doing the right thing and following the rules. I want again to record my thanks to everyone for doing that. The sacrifices that have been made have suppressed the virus—although I know how hard and, at times, painful those sacrifices have been. They have also protected the national health service and have, undoubtedly, saved a significant number of lives. They have also brought us to the position from which we can now look ahead with a bit more clarity to our path out of lockdown.

I stress that each step on the path depends on our continuing to beat back the virus. If we do not do that, we cannot take those steps forward, and if the virus starts to spread again, the steps that we have already taken might need to be reversed. We must do absolutely everything in our power to avoid that. That means continuing with the careful approach that has brought us to where we are now.

Our pace is slightly slower than the pace in England, but in my view it is right for our circumstances, and I hope that it is more likely to be sustainable than it would be if we were to go faster now.

Maintaining our progress also means all of us abiding by public health guidance: wearing face coverings in enclosed spaces, avoiding crowded places, washing our hands, cleaning surfaces regularly, maintaining physical distancing and agreeing to self-isolate immediately and get a test if we have symptoms. All those basic protections matter now, much more than ever. They will reduce the virus’s ability to spread even as we all get out and about a bit more.

The key point is that the virus has not gone away, and will not go away of its own accord. It will pose a real and significant threat for some time to come, so we must never be complacent in the face of it. We must keep working to drive it down further towards the point of elimination, because that gives us the best chance of keeping it under control through testing, surveillance, contact tracing and application of targeted suppression measures when they are necessary.

The prize, if we succeed, is that we will get greater normality back in our lives more quickly than we envisaged we would a few weeks ago, and, I hope, without reversals back into blanket lockdown.

Getting the weans back to school is a top priority.

Nowhere does any of that matter more than in our schools. As John Swinney said yesterday, blended learning is a necessary contingency, because we might need it. There are no certainties with the virus. However, the progress that we have made so far makes it possible to plan for full-time return to school in August, with appropriate safety measures in place.

However, to achieve that aim, we must continue to drive down the virus to the lowest possible levels, and keep it there. I hope that the prospect of getting children back to full-time education sooner rather than later gives us all an added incentive to do exactly that.

The same is true of the updated version of the route map that we have published today. It sets out a series of what I stress are indicative dates for the remainder of phase 2 and the early part of phase 3. That greater clarity is possible because of the progress that we have made against the virus, but achieving the milestones depends on that progress continuing.

We will complete our formal three-week reviews as required by law on 9 and 30 July, and I will make statements in Parliament on both those days. However, I hope that today’s statement will provide people and businesses across the country with a bit more certainty in respect of their forward planning.

We will issue detailed guidance ahead of the key dates that are being indicated today. The guidance will be informed by advice that we commissioned last week from our scientific advisory group on two key issues. The first is what, if any, additional mitigations are required at locations that might pose a higher risk of transmission, and the second is in what settings and circumstances, and with what mitigations, it might be possible to allow relaxation of the 2m physical distancing rule. I will receive that advice next week, and will report on it by 2 July. We will issue guidance as soon as possible after that.

However, I want to make three general points in advance of that. First, unless and until that we have confidence that the risk of moving away from the 2m physical distancing rule in certain circumstances can be mitigated, businesses and individuals must continue to comply with the rule. I understand the concerns of businesses and particular sectors about that, so I hope that, in the period ahead, we can find a viable and safe balance.

Secondly, we will take a decision on whether, as we have already done for public transport, to make face coverings mandatory in shops, in light of the advice that we will receive next week. In the meantime, we will join the retail sector in a campaign to promote and encourage their use.

Thirdly, to support our test and protect system, businesses in the hospitality sector will be required to take names and contact details of customers and to store them for four weeks, so they should be preparing for that now.

I turn to the updated route map. As I announced last week, non-essential retail can reopen from Monday. So, too, can workplaces in the manufacturing sector that have been closed until now. Outdoor playgrounds and outdoor sports courts can also open from Monday.

I can now confirm indicative dates for the rest of phase 2 and the early part of phase 3. Let me repeat, however, that they all depend on continued suppression of the virus.

I can confirm that, on 3 July, it is our intention to lift the guidance advising people in Scotland to travel no more than 5 miles for leisure and recreation purposes. Although the tourism sector will not open fully until 15 July, we intend that self-contained holiday accommodation, such as holiday cottages and lodges, or caravans where there are no shared services, can open from 3 July. However, we ask people to use good judgment, abide by the rules that apply to households meeting up, and be sensitive to those living in our rural communities. The advice remains to avoid crowded places.

As we hopefully suppress the virus further, we will also continue to consider any measures that might be necessary to protect against the risk of imported cases of the virus.

It is then our intention that outdoor hospitality such as beer gardens will be permitted to reopen on Monday 6 July. That gives a few days after we receive advice from the advisory group for guidance to be issued and any necessary mitigations to be put in place.

I hope that we will then be able to move to phase 3 of the route map on 9 July, but, as I indicated earlier, I will make a further statement to Parliament on that date. However, as was the case with phase 2, I do not expect that we will do everything in phase 3 at the same time. Instead, we will take a phased approach. The resumption of NHS and other public services, for example, will continue during the three-week period. I will give some indicative dates now for the early part of phase 3 and others will be added later.

We intend that from 15 July, households will be able to meet people from more households outdoors with physical distancing. I will confirm the details of that in my 2 July update. At that point, I also hope to confirm an expansion of the extended household model and some changes that will give young people more opportunities to mix with their friends over the summer holidays. I can confirm now that organised outdoor sports for children and young people can, subject to guidance, resume from 13 July.

We also expect that non-essential shops in indoor shopping centres will reopen from 13 July, subject to guidance on physical distancing and other measures.

From 15 July, we intend that a household will be able to meet indoors with people from up to two other households, subject to physical distancing and strict hygiene measures.

We intend that early learning and childcare services will be able to resume from 15 July, subject to individual provider arrangements. It is likely that capacity will remain restricted initially.

Connacht 8- horse riding's a favourite pasttime around Cleggan and Omey strand in Connemara.-001

Neigh bother – you can get on your horse and enjoy the wide open spaces.

All pictures by Bill Heaney

As we have indicated, the tourism sector generally, and therefore all holiday accommodation, can reopen from 15 July. We intend that indoor locations such as museums, galleries, monuments, cinemas and libraries will also be able to reopen from that date, but with precautions in place, such as tickets being secured in advance, and subject to physical distancing and strict hygiene. Unfortunately, theatres, bingo halls, nightclubs, casinos and other live entertainment venues will not reopen until a later date.

We intend that pubs and restaurants will open indoors from 15 July, on a limited basis initially and subject to a number of conditions. Detailed guidance will be issued as soon as possible.

Last, but not least for many of us, we intend that hairdressers and barbers will reopen from 15 July. [Applause.] Other personal retail services will remain closed until a later date.

The other changes planned under phase 3 require further consideration and assessment. They include communal worship, indoor live entertainment venues, outdoor live events under certain conditions, indoor gyms, and the lifting of restrictions on attendance at weddings and, unfortunately, funerals. I am not able to give indicative dates for those today, but my judgment is that those changes are unlikely to take effect before 23 July, although we will keep that under review.

In addition, before the end of July we will provide further advice to those who are shielding. If we can, we want to move away from the current position of blanket guidance for all shielding people to much more tailored advice about risk and how to mitigate it.

Our challenge, which is not an easy one, is to manage all that change while keeping the virus firmly under control. If at any stage there appears to be a risk of its resurgence, our path out of lockdown will be halted and we may even have to go backwards.

One comment

  1. If Jackson Carlaw had his way he’d have all the children and all the teachers back at school now.

    In fact, he’d never have had them away at all. Spread the Virus Carlaw might be a cat call but can you imagine the carnage if the Johnson Government had not relented and imposed lockdown preferring instead to spread for the herd.

    Sturgeon is trying hard to manage the viral infection down carefully. It is not an easy task, but she is taking advice, and only taking steps as quickly as can safely be taken. Westminster on the other hand is setting the pace to remove all restrictions.

    At the end of the day it will be the older people who will perish if there is a second wave. But hey, playing fast and loose was the Tory plan from day one. No plan, no PPE, no testing, no controls and now five months in, no trace and track app.

    It’s a hard ticket all right taking it on the chin. But hey ho, the cat call of Spread the Virus Carlaw, or Too Bad if a Few Die Cummings, or Take it on the Chin Johnson rings as true today as it did all those months ago.

    No wonder we’ve the second highest death rate in the developed world!

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