Nicola Sturgeon 'optimistic' as virus ‘firmly in retreat’ in Scotland

Coronavirus is firmly in retreat in Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon has said as further lockdown changes came into effect.

The country has moved into the second phase of a four-step plan for easing restrictions following an announcement from the First Minister on Thursday that some activities similar to those already allowed in England will be permitted.

The latest changes allow people who live alone or solely with under-18s to meet another household indoors without physical distancing in an "extended household group arrangement", similar to the "bubbles" in place south of the border.

People can also now meet in larger groups outside, and other changes allow greater freedom for those who are shielding.

A passenger wearing a face mask walks past a sign at the entrance to Glasgow Central Station as Scotland continues to lift coronavirus lockdown measures.

Speaking at the Scottish Government's coronavirus briefing in Edinburgh, Ms Sturgeon recapped the latest changes.

While she stressed the "virus hasn't gone away", she added: "There is no doubt the virus in Scotland is now firmly in retreat.

"That is why the changes to the rules and the guidance I announced yesterday, though significant, were also careful, because we know we have to keep the virus in retreat.

"If we all keep doing the right thing, I am more optimistic than I have been in a long time that we are now firmly on the track to getting normality back into our lives."

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has insisted that she has “never been more optimistic” about Scotland’s ability to overcome the coronavirus epidemic. (Photo by Andrew Milligan - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

The First Minister also announced a new public awareness campaign, called Facts, to help people remember the key precautions in limiting the spread of the virus.

She said: "Each letter of that words Facts should serve to remind us all of the key measures we need to comply with:

"Face coverings in enclosed spaces;

"Avoid crowded spaces;

"Clean your hands and surfaces regularly;

"Two-metre distancing;

"Self-isolate and book a test if you have symptoms.

"So remember these 'Facts' and that will help all of us stay safe and it will ensure all of us can help protect each other as well."

The lockdown changes which came into force on Friday involve the limit on meetings outside increasing from one other household to two, while people can also use toilets indoors while visiting another household.

Guidelines urge people to continue staying in their local area as much as possible and not to travel more than broadly five miles for leisure or recreation.

Those who are shielding are now able to leave their home for exercise and to meet with one other household outdoors, with a maximum of eight people in total and physical distancing in place.

They can also take part in non-contact outdoor activities such as golf, hiking and fishing.

The briefing was also updated on the latest coronavirus figures in Scotland, which showed 2,470 patients have died after testing positive for Covid-19 - up six from 2,464 on Thursday.

A total of 18,104 people have tested positive for the virus in Scotland, up by 27 from 18,077 the previous day.

There are 904 people in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19, a decrease of 25 in 24 hours. Of these patients, 19 are in intensive care - down by four.

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