Nicola Sturgeon urges against pro-independence march to keep virus at bay

Nicola Sturgeon has warned that mass gatherings, including planned pro-independence marches, may jeopardise efforts to keep coronavirus under control.

Nicola Sturgeon wears a Tartan face mask as she visits New Look at Ford Kinaird Retail Park

Her warning came as Scotland recorded no new deaths from the virus yesterday, the first time this has happened on a weekday, in a development described as “really significant” by the First Minister.

She even suggested that Scotland may not be far away from seeing the “total elimination” of coronavirus.

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The First Minister insisted she did not want to “lecture” Scots after trouble in Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Park on Thursday, which led to two people being arrested.

“I understand, particularly for young people on a day like yesterday, the hottest day of the year, that if you are a young person, a student, you’re living in a flat, you want to get out and about,” Ms Sturgeon said.

“Many years ago now I was a student at Glasgow University. I know how lovely it is to sit in Kelvingrove Park on a nice day. So I understand that and I don’t think anybody or very many people are taking action deliberately because they want to cause harm.

“But it is really important that we all understand the risks that kind of gathering presents right now. We know that big gatherings give opportunities for the virus to spread and we know that’s true outdoors, as well as indoors. The risk might be slightly lower outdoors, but it is not non-existent.

“All I want to continue to do is to ask people to do the right thing. It means sacrifice. It has meant sacrifice every day in this crisis. I’m asking for more and I understand that. But I don’t want to be standing here in the weeks to come saying these numbers are starting to go in the wrong direction again.”

Ms Sturgeon warned against plans by the pro-independence campaign group All Under One Banner for a series of marches in coming weeks, including one in Edinburgh on 20 July.

“They will potentially jeopardise the efforts to keep the virus suppressed,” she said. “I think that right now these kind of mass gatherings are not advised. In fact, we strongly advise against them and there are legal enforcement powers.

“My advice to anybody, whether it is All Under One Banner or anybody else protesting for any other reason or who want to gather in the sunshine in Kelvingrove Park, is please don’t do it, because you are putting our progress at risk.

“I understand, I’ve been a political activist since I was 16 years old. I’m a politician. I know how important protest is, I know how important democratic expression is, not just at elections, but through marches and gatherings. I’ve taken part in more of these over my life than I can count. But right now they are risky, so find other ways to make your views known.”

The First Minister said the absence of new fatalities yesterday was “really significant” as it was the first time this has happened during the week, with previous instances occurring at weekends when reporting rates tend to be lower.

“Suppressing the virus, trying to get as far as we can towards total elimination has to be our overriding priority,” she said.

“Total elimination will not mean that it disappears completely in the community, but that cases become so sporadic and isolated that it will become more straightforward for the authorities to control.

“It doesn’t mean it has gone away, it doesn’t mean it will stop rising again if we stop doing the things we need to do. It gives us more confidence that we can keep it under control with surveillance and testing, contact tracing and where we see outbreaks using very targeted measures as opposed to blanket lockdowns.

“How far away are we from that? I think we are not that far away – the challenge is keeping it there.”

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