Nicola Sturgeon urges caution to protect ‘fragile’ progress on halting Covid-19

Nicola Sturgeon has urged Scots to remain cautious by continuing to follow existing lockdown rules to protect the “very fragile” progress being made in stopping the spread of Covid-19.

The First Minister agreed there was “light at the end of the tunnel” but did not repeat the confident assertion made yesterday by Boris Johnson that the country was “past the peak” of the pandemic.

Speaking at her daily media briefing in Edinburgh today, Ms Sturgeon said: “I think we are seeing positive signs of progress against this virus, principally in the reduction in numbers of people we see in intensive care and a stablisation in hospital admissions.

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“That tells us that transmission of the virus has reduced and our estimates of the all-important R-numbers suggest the transmission in the community has reduced significantly.”

Nicola Sturgeon urged Scots to 'stick to the rules' to help protect the progress being made at halting the spread of Covid-19

She continued: “I am always a little bit cautious about talking about being ‘past the peak’. That’s not to say there is a substantial difference in what I’m saying and what the Prime Minister said yesterday.

“But when the effort is to flatten the curve, the peak is not a single day or a couple of days.

“While I want to be able to see and report progress, I think it is really important the message does not get lost: the progress we have made is very fragile and it will not take much right now to send it into reverse.

“If we want to make progress, the most important thing we have to keep doing right now is sticking with the rules.”

In a tweet posted after the briefing, she added: “There is progress, and light at end of tunnel.

“My concern about ‘past the peak’ is that it could imply we’re past the point of danger. We’re not - progress is fragile and if we ease up it will be reversed. So we need to encourage maximum compliance with current restrictions.”

The First Minister confirmed the death toll of people in Scotland who have tested positive for Covid-19 is now 1,515, up 40 from 1,475 on Thursday.

She said testing capacity in Scotland in NHS labs currently stands at 4,350, compared to 350 at the start of the outbreak.

The Scottish Government set a target of 3,500 for capacity in these labs by the end of April.

Combined with the UK Government testing network in Scotland, the daily capacity for tests in the country is now 8,350, Ms Sturgeon said.

By the end of the next week, she said it is hoped this combined capacity will have risen to 10,500 and then to 12,000 by the middle of May.

The First Minister said increasing capacity is not about “chasing numbers” and it is important to increase the number of tests carried out.

She said there were 2,537 NHS tests carried out on Thursday, in addition to 2,124 tests at the regional drive-through centres across Scotland, bringing the total number to 4,661.

The First Minister said 22,400 key workers or family members have been tested by the NHS.

Ms Sturgeon also announced 11,654 people have now tested positive for the virus in Scotland, a rise of 301 from 11,353 on Thursday.

There are 1,809 people in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19, up 61 from 1,748 the previous day.

Of these patients, 110 are in intensive care, a rise of four.

Expanding the testing regime in Scotland, she announced the Scottish Government will undertake “advanced outbreak investigation” at care homes reporting cases of Covid-19.

The investigation will involve testing of all residents and staff regardless of symptoms.

She said, if a care home is part of a chain where staff move between homes, the testing will be carried out in the linked institutions.

Ms Sturgeon also said there will be sample testing done in homes where no cases have been reported.

The changes, which will be overseen by NHS Louisa Jordan chief executive Jill Young, will be put in place “as swiftly as practicable”.

She added the expansion of testing will need to be “clinically driven”.