Accept tougher rules to save lives, Scots told

Nicola Sturgeon has urged Scots to accept a tougher lockdown regime than elsewhere in the UK as it could potentially save lives.

People take their exercise on Portobello Beach yesterday.

It came as both she and the First Minister of Wales insisted Boris Johnson’s announcement on easing the lockdown relaxation this weekend will largely apply to England.

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford announced yesterday that as well as restrictions on exercise being eased, garden centres and libraries are set to re-open.

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Mr Drakeford said the adjustments would be “broadly” similar to those set out by the Prime Minister on Sunday, but his office contacted journalists at Westminster urging them not to report Mr Johnson’s statement as applying to the whole UK.

Scottish Government first minister Nicola Sturgeon giving an update on the spread of Covid-19 nationwide.

“Any decisions the UK Government take and subsequently announce relate to England only,” a press officer for Mr Drakeford wrote.

The First Minister told the daily coronavirus briefing that the reproduction (R) rate in Scotland was still estimated to be higher than elsewhere and asked Scots to persevere with a tougher approach here.

A further 49 deaths from Covid-19 were reported yesterday, but hospital cases are continuing to fall.

Although a relaxation of rules on exercising is expected to announced by Ms Sturgeon in coming days, there will be no other easing of restrictions to match measures south of the Border.

“All four nations now accept that there may be differences in pace in how we do these things because the rate of the infection – the level of the virus is at different stages because of the timing that we went into this infection curve,” Ms Sturgeon said.

“If you’re not being allowed to do something in Scotland that you’re being allowed to do in other parts of the UK or vice versa, it’s because we judge here that it’s necessary to save you from getting this virus which potentially could save your life if you became seriously unwell.

“We’re asking you for a little bit longer not to, for example, go to garden centres.”

She added: “Everything I’m advising people to do or not to do is only driven by the desire to protect people from this virus.”

The Scottish Government said its data suggests the R-number is higher in Scotland than the rest of the UK, with this estimated to be between 0.7 and one in Scotland, compared to between 0.5 and 0.9 in the UK.

Ms Sturgeon said discussions with the UK Government over the past 24 hours had assured her that any changes announced by Mr Johnson this weekend would only result in minor variations with Scotland. The Prime Minister will unveil his plans tomorrow following a meeting of the UK’s emergency Cobra body, which Ms Sturgeon will participate in.

“These restrictions are in place separately in all four nations of the UK, we all have our own legal responsibilities to review them and keep them under review,” the SNP leader said.

“Apart from on clearly reserved areas like border control, what the Prime Minister announces in terms of easing up on restrictions will be for England.

“And then, as Wales has done today set out their position, as we will do and Northern Ireland will do separately.

“I would expect the changes, if there are any variations between us, to be minor at this stage.”

The Prime Minister is set to unveil his “road map” for easing the lockdown in a broadcast to the nation after a meeting of his Covid-19 war cabinet and talks with the devolved heads of government. The use of masks is expected to be referenced in the new guidance for England, which will be published in full on Monday and will include milestones for progressive loosening of social distancing rules.

UK Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden yesterday sought to temper public expectations for the Prime Minister’s 7pm announcement on Sunday, stating “limited moves” will be made to ease the restrictions currently in place to stem the transmission of coronavirus.

Mr Drakeford echoed that message at his briefing in Cardiff, said: “I don’t believe that we will see anywhere in the United Kingdom anything other than the most modest of immediate changes.”

Asked to sum up his experience of working with the UK Government during the pandemic, Mr Drakeford said it has been “a bit of a fits and starts experience” but added discussions have worked well with ministers in London.

The latest Covid-19 figures show that a total of 1,811 patients have died in Scotland after testing positive for coronavirus, up by 49 from 1,762 on Thursday.

The First Minister said 13,149 people have now tested positive for the virus in Scotland, up by 225 from 12,924 the day before.

In Scotland, 84 people were in intensive care with coronavirus or coronavirus symptoms, down by two on the previous day, and 1,584 people were in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19, a decrease of three.

The First Minister also announced that testing capacity has increased by “more than 2,000” and, taken with the Lighthouse Laboratories established by the UK Government, the total capacity has now risen to “more than 10,000 per day”.

Ms Sturgeon also said she expected the Scottish capacity to rise to 12,000 by next Friday.

The UK Government’s 100,000 target for coronavirus tests was missed for the sixth day in a row, highlighting “daily fluctuations” in availability. 97,029 tests were conducted in the 24 hours to 9am yesterday, up from 86,583 the day before.

Ms Sturgeon announced the Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund for small and medium-sized businesses will be doubled from £45 million to £90m. The fund provides grants to small businesses that are deemed to be vital to their local areas, but put in a vulnerable position by the coronavirus crisis.

Chief constable Iain Livingstone was also in attendance at the briefing, saying that communities across Scotland have “stepped forward” during the pandemic.

He said there were “high levels” of compliance with policing during the lockdown, and surveys had suggested that support for policing was higher than usual.

The chief constable said: “It’s my plea today, underlining what the First Minister has said, for everyone to continue exercising the self-discipline, commitment and common sense which has thus far served us well.

“It is essential to protect the National Health Service and save lives – please stick with it.”

Meanwhile, three men have been charged in connection with breaching a temporary restriction on airspace above the Louisa Jordan Hospital.

Police Scotland took action after drones were allegedly flown above the facility at the Scottish Events Campus in Glasgow despite temporary legislation banning aircraft entering the area without permission.

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