Coronavirus: Nicola Sturgeon says ‘unpopular decisions’ may still be needed

Nicola SturgeonImage copyright
Scottish government

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Nicola Sturgeon said she was worried that “human nature” might lead some people to “subconsciously” let down their guard

Tough and unpopular decisions may still need to be taken to prevent a resurgence of coronavirus in Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon has warned.

The first minister said there had been a “sustained and significant” reduction in cases and deaths from the virus.

But she said there was still a risk of people letting down their guard and allowing the virus to spread again.

Ms Sturgeon is to announce on Thursday whether the 2m (6ft 6in) physical distancing rule is to be relaxed

And she is also expected to decide whether or not to make face coverings compulsory in shops, rather than just recommended.

Lockdown is gradually being eased in Scotland, with most non-essential shops re-opening yesterday and the five-mile travel limit to be lifted on Friday.

Scotland and the UK have now been in lockdown for 100 days as part of efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19.

The first minister said there had been nine deaths of coronavirus patients in the past seven days, compared to a weekly total of 23 the previous Tuesday, pointing to an encouraging “overall trend” in figures.

She again said Scotland had a “genuine chance” to drive the virus close to elimination, but while this was a “moment of great opportunity” it was also a “time of very real danger”.

She said the renewed lockdown in Leicester and outbreaks in some US states and the Australian city of Melbourne were a “very loud reminder that the virus has not gone away”.

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Media captionCoronavirus: Shopping returns to Scotland’s streets

Ms Sturgeon said: “We are reopening more public services and businesses and in the coming days will be travelling a bit more and seeing more of our families and friends.

“That is absolutely right and justified by the progress we have made, and it is important to get our economy going again. But by opening up a bit more, there is a real risk that people will let down their guard.

“For the Scottish government, that means we may still have to take some really tough and unpopular decisions in the weeks ahead, and will have to do so against the grain of what you might like. But we have to do that to protect the progress we have made.”

The first minister is considering issues including the 2m rule and her government’s position on plans for “air bridges” to allow people to go on foreign holidays without going into quarantine.

And Scotland’s schools are now expected to go back full time without social distancing in August, despite safety concerns from teaching unions.

However Ms Sturgeon insisted her warning about tough decisions was not “citing anything particular at the moment”, saying there may still be “instances where we will not be able to ease up as quickly as people want”.

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Ms Sturgeon is still taking advice on whether to follow the UK government in relaxing the 2m distancing rule

Ms Sturgeon said Scotland was now in a similar position to where it was at the beginning of March, which she said was a reminder of “how quickly it could take off again”.

She added: “It’s definitely not anything I’m seeing in the data – it’s just because I understand that it is human nature that we’ve lived under lockdown for three months, there is a sense of things starting to go back to normal little bit.

“So it is almost human nature to subconsciously accelerate the process and stop doing the things we’ve been advised to do.

“If we start doing things that allow [the virus] to spread then before we know where we are it will have started to spread out of control, and none of us want that.”

The next review of lockdown restrictions in Scotland is due on 9 July, although ministers have already announced indicative dates for a range of changes.

These include outdoor hospitality such as beer gardens re-opening on 6 July, groups of three households being allowed to meet up indoors from 10 July, and the re-opening of hairdressers, museums, cinemas, libraries, pubs, restaurants and holiday accommodation from 15 July.

The government also hopes to have all schools re-open fully – without physical distancing between pupils – from 11 August.

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