Lockdown in Scotland to last at least another three weeks - even if England exit before then - as Sturgeon says she will not be 'rushed' into easing Covid-19 restrictions
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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has warned she will not be pressured into rushing Scotland out of the lockdown until she is as certain as she can be that it will not spark a resurgence ofcoronavirus.
Speaking at her daily briefing, she responded to media reports claiming that Prime Minister Boris Johnson is ready to start easing lockdown restrictions in England, which would abandon the four nations' policy in effect until now.
Ms Sturgeon categorically ruled out such a move until it was decided that the time was right and confirmed that Scotland’s lockdown would continue for at least another three weeks until the next review date on May 28.
Further clarity is expected after Mr Johnson requested talks with the devolved leaders in the UK, which it is understood will happen later today.
She said: “My assessment of the evidence leads me to the conclusion that the lockdown must be extended.
“We are together making really significant progress to get this virus under control, I have reported today a further reduction in the number of patients in intensive care and yesterday National Records of Scotland reported the first weekly decline in the number of registered deaths related to the virus since this outbreak began.
“Also we think the R number might still be a bit higher here than it is in other parts of the UK, perhaps reflecting the fact that our first cases came later than England's and so we may be at a different stage of the infection.
“All of that tells me that extreme caution is required at this critical juncture to avoid a rapid resurgence of the virus before we can judge that it is safe to begin any significant, albeit gradual, easing of the restrictions. We want to see data in the days ahead that confirms a very clear downward trend.”
Regarding the Prime Minister’s address on Sunday, at which it has been speculated he will reveal the first stage of easing the lockdown, she said: “I want to take the opportunity to remind you that none of the decisions that I am taking, absolutely none of them, are driven by politics.
“They are driven only by doing what is right to tackle this virus and to save lives and I believe that is true for all leaders across the UK. However, I have to be clear with you that the potential changes that are 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.
“I hope we will have discussions in the next few days. We had expected a Cobra meeting today or tomorrow, but it seems now that might not take place until Sunday, which of course is the day the Prime Minister is due to make his statement.
“In the last half hour I understand that the Prime Minister has requested a call with the devolved governments later today and I very much welcome that, and if and when those discussions do take place I will make very clear, as I have all along, that it is my preference, if possible, for all four UK nations to make changes together and at the same pace because I certainly helps give clear consistent messages to you the public.
“However, for that approach to work, we must agree to make changes only when all four governments are satisfied that they 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 then I will respect that and I will not criticise him for doing that but I hope you understand and I hope you agree that I must make judgements informed by the evidence that is right and safe for Scotland.
“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.”