Covid in Scotland: Sturgeon to confirm delay to lockdown easingon June 22, 2021 at 1:37 am

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The first minister is expected to say a move to level zero in Scotland will be pushed back until mid-July.

A woman waits at a train station

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Nicola Sturgeon is expected to confirm a delay to the easing of Covid-19 restrictions in Scotland later.

The first minister signalled last week that the move to level zero – the lowest in five-tier system – was likely to be pushed back by three weeks.

Originally set for 28 June, it could be delayed until at least mid-July so more people can be vaccinated.

Ms Sturgeon has also promised to publish a much-anticipated review of social distancing rules.

She is expected to give an indication of what life could look like once the country has transitioned to level zero and beyond.

While large parts of Scotland moved into level one earlier this month, and some islands went down to level zero, many parts of the central belt remain in level two, where there are stricter limits on the size of groups that can meet.

The first minister has previously indicated that it was unlikely any area would move down a level on 28 June.

Instead, she suggested the current level of restrictions was likely to remain until 19 July – the same date Prime Minister Boris Johnson has targeted as a “terminus” for England’s lockdown restrictions.

In Wales, lockdown rules are being reviewed again on 15 July, while the next planned easing in Northern Ireland is set for 5 July.

Ms Sturgeon will update MSPs in a statement to the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood at around 14:20 BST on Tuesday.

The number of Covid cases in Scotland has been steadily rising since early May.

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Another 1,250 new Covid cases were reported in Scotland on Monday, 7.2% of all the new tests taken.

Figures showed there were 158 people in hospital with a recently confirmed case of Covid, with 14 of those in intensive care.

Ms Sturgeon said last week that the reason for the likely pause in easing restrictions was to “buy sufficient time for vaccination to get ahead and stay ahead of the virus”.

“Doing that will give us the best chance, later in July, of getting back on track and restoring the much greater normality that we all crave,” she added.

Ms Sturgeon said on Friday that all adults in Scotland should have been offered a first dose of the vaccine by the end of this week, and all adults will have received a first dose by 18 July – almost two weeks ahead of schedule.

Nicola Sturgeon

image copyrightPA Media

The likely delay to ending restrictions has already been criticised by the hospitality industry, which has warned of the potential of “another lost summer“.

Members of the Scottish travel industry will also lobby both Holyrood and the Westminster parliaments this week urging greater support.

On Monday they sent an open letter accusing the first minister of “banning” them from operating – other than “in name only” – with impractical Covid rules.

Before her latest Covid statement on Tuesday, Ms Sturgeon will face a topical question at Holyrood from Scottish Conservative MSP Graham Simpson, asking on what basis the government has introduced a ban on non-essential travel between Scotland and Manchester and Salford.

Ms Sturgeon defended the ban on Monday after an angry reaction from Greater Manchester’s mayor, Andy Burnham. She insisted it was a public health measure based on Covid levels in the area.

Mr Burnham condemned the fact he was given no advance warning of the travel ban, and called on the Scottish government to compensate those who are now out of pocket.

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