NICOLA Sturgeon has urged Scots to stay home, warning that following Boris Johnson and easing up on Covid-19 restrictions could lead to the virus running out of control again.
In a televised address, the First Minister said the Scottish Government would “gradually relax the restrictions” as Scotland’s “infection rate continues to fall.”
She said the lockdown had worked and the virus was now in retreat.
“In the last four weeks, the number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care has fallen by almost two thirds.
“And last week, we saw the most welcome sign of all – for the first time since the epidemic started, the number of deaths registered in a single week fell.
“So the progress is real and it is down to you, but our progress is still fragile. If we ease up too soon, the virus could run out of control again.”
The First Minister said there would be “risks whenever we start to ease the lockdown” but, in her judgement, the risk was currently “too great”.
“Too many people are still dying, and the situation in care homes – despite the extraordinary dedication of our care workers – remains a serious concern.
“And the important R number – the rate at which the virus reproduces – is still uncomfortably close to 1. If it exceeds 1, the virus could rapidly take off again.”
She said ministers were already making preparations for when that would happen.
“We are working with businesses to produce guidance on safe workplaces. We are working on the changes needed on public transport. And we are talking to teachers and parents about how and when schools can safely return.
“We are doing all of that carefully because it is vital that when we do ask you to return to work or to school, you have clarity about what we are asking you to do and also confidence that it is safe.”
Staying in, she added, was an “expression of love, kindness and solidarity”.
“We are doing it for each other, not just ourselves,” she said. “It is how we protect each other, protect our NHS, and save lives.”
England has gone its own way in easing the lockdown, with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all keeping restrictions that little bit tighter.
In the Commons yesterday, the Westminster leader of Plaid Cymru, Liz Saville-Roberts, described the Tory leader as “the Prime Minister of England”.
Johnson yesterday released a 50-page “roadmap” detailing the UK Government’s strategy on easing the lockdown. He described it as “baby steps” that would allow the country to return to normality.
Opposition politicians accused the Prime Minister of being vague.
Labour leader Keir Starmer said the UK needed “clarity and reassurance”.
In his own televised address on the BBC, Starmer said the government paper raised more questions than answers: “We needed to hear that nobody would be asked to go to work or send their children to school without it being safe to do so.
“We needed to know that the huge problems we’ve seen with protective equipment are over. That the crisis in our care homes has finally been gripped. That everybody who needs a test can finally get one.
“Above all, we needed to know when we could see our loved ones again.
“The Prime Minister said he was setting out a road map, but if we’re to complete the journey safely, a roadmap needs clear directions.”
In a press conference, where the Prime Minister took questions from the public, John from Midlothian asked Johnson whose advice he should follow: “With so many conflicting statements between yourself and Scotland, who do I now listen to, as you are my Prime Minister, and we are all the United Kingdom.”
The Prime Minister told John that the disease epidemic is at “different stages in different places and it’s entirely right that different devolved administrations are taking slightly different approaches to deal with the epidemic in their nation, and we respect that and support that”.
He added: “When you look at the totality of the approach, I really think that actually, the unity between us is far more significant than the differences.”
Johnson said all four nations were “absolutely determined to have a UK wide solution to this”.
“You’ve got to respect, local issues local flare ups, local problems, and the part of the solution is going to be, as we go forward, we will be responding with local responses so if there’s a flare up in a particular part of the country, in a town or in a village, which we detect with our Covidalert system, then we we will be firefighting, doing whack-a-mole to deal with that issue as it arises.
“So, having a local, regional, national approach makes sense, but it also makes sense to have a strong UK approach as well.”