Nicola Sturgeon: I will not be pressured into lifting restrictions prematurely

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Nicola Sturgeon has said she will not be pressured into lifting lockdown restrictions prematurely, amid reports Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to ease some of the measures on Sunday.

Speaking at her daily coronavirus briefing on Thursday, the Scottish First Minister said: “The potential changes that have been reported in the media today have not yet been discussed with the Scottish Government or, as far as I know, with the other devolved governments.”

She added that Mr Johnson has requested a call with the governments in the other parts of the UK later on Thursday.

“However for that approach to work, we must agree to make changes only when all four governments are satisfied we don’t risk a resurgence of the virus.

“If the Prime Minister decides that he wants to move at a faster pace for England than I consider is right for Scotland, that is his right, I will respect that and I will not criticise him for doing that.”

Ms Sturgeon said she has to make decisions “informed by the evidence that are right and safe for Scotland”.

She said: “I will not be pressured into lifting restrictions prematurely before I am as certain as I can be that we will not be risking a resurgence of infection rates.”

Ms Sturgeon added she strongly believes dropping the “clear, well understood” Stay at Home message could be a “potentially catastrophic mistake”.

The First Minster also gave the latest Covid-19 figures for Scotland.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

The First Minister said 12,924 people have now tested positive for the virus in Scotland, up by 215 from 12,709 the day before.

There are 86 people in intensive care with coronavirus or symptoms, a decrease of three on Wednesday, and 1,587 patients are in hospital with the virus, a decrease of 45.

Since March 5, 2,954 people who have tested positive for coronavirus have been able to leave hospital.

The First Minister also said she “may” be prepared “in the immediate future” to agree to a change in guidance allowing people out for exercise more than once a day.

But she added: “The other possible changes that are reported in the media, such as encouraging more people back to work now, opening beer gardens, or encouraging more use of public transport, would not in my judgment be safe for us to make yet.

“What I do not want a few weeks from now is for us to see a resurgence of this virus, and for you to be asking me ‘why on Earth did you start to ease lockdown a week or a couple of weeks too early?’.

“It’s not an exaggeration to say the decisions we take now are a matter of life and death. That is why they weigh so very, very heavily and why they must be taken with great care, and it is why as I take them I will continue to err on the side of caution.

“The way in which we emerge from lockdown that wee bit more quickly is to stick with the current restrictions now.

“Our assessment of the evidence leads me to the conclusion that the lockdown must be extended at this stage.”

Following a call between the Prime Minister and leaders of the devolved administrations, a spokesman for Ms Sturgeon said: “The First Minister reiterated to the Prime Minister that the lockdown regulations in Scotland would remain in place and that the only issue under consideration at this time was in relation to outdoor exercise.

“The First Minister also made clear that the stay at home message remained crucial.

“While no specific detail of the plans under consideration by the UK Government was shared, the Prime Minister confirmed that there would be further discussion ahead of a meeting of Cobra on Sunday.”

Speaking to STV’s Scotland Tonight, Ms Sturgeon said different parts of the UK could ease restrictions at a different pace, but with “no substantive difference in direction”.

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