Nicola Sturgeon has said she has “never been more optimistic” about defeating Covid-19 but warned the public against complacency in the fight against the disease.
Despite her optimism, the first minister said the easing of restrictions this week could prove “tougher” than living in blanket lockdown if people drop their guard.
At her daily coronavirus briefing, Ms Sturgeon refused to go back on her decision to keep beer gardens closed even though it proved deeply disappointing to publicans and restaurateurs.
The day after she announced that Scotland was going into phase two of the route map out of lockdown, Ms Sturgeon acknowledged that businesses were growing increasingly anxious about the economic damage being caused by the measures.
Ms Sturgeon announced six more deaths of people with a positive coronavirus test, taking the total under that measurement to 2,470.
Over the last 24 hours there had been a decline of 25 in the number of patients in hospital, down to 904. A total of 19 patients were in intensive care, four fewer than the day before.
“These last three months have been really dreadful for all of us and dreadful, in particular, for all those who have lost loved ones and dreadful for those who have had to live under lockdown,” Ms Sturgeon said.
“But while I know there is still a long way to go and I know that anxieties are increasing for businesses, for parents – in terms of virus itself I have never been more optimistic than I am now that we can beat this thing and get back to something that is very close to normal.”
The gradual easing of lockdown measures means that from this week families will be able to meet up with two households outdoors as long as the total number of people does not exceed eight.
Those who live alone or live only with children are now able to form “an extended household group” with another household. An extended household will be able to meet indoors without physical distancing and stay overnight.
We are moving into a ‘tougher’ phase, says Sturgeon
Ms Sturgeon warned the new arrangements could prove more challenging than total lockdown, as people realise the virus is in retreat. She also acknowledged the anti-coronavirus messaging was becoming more complex.
“There is no doubt this is, in some ways, a tougher phase we are going into,” the first minister said. “We are seeing the virus in retreat so maybe we are not as on our guard as we have been at a time when we are going out more – which means, actually, we have to be more on our guard.”
She added: “We see the virus receding so I think all of us have a very obvious and human and understandable frustration about still having to live under some restrictions and we think, ‘why can’t we go back to normal even more quickly?’
“But the thing is, we can’t afford at this stage to be complacent because the virus is still out there, it hasn’t gone away, and as we gradually remove the restrictions that have kept it under control, the risk is it starts to circulate again.”
With its messaging in mind, the Scottish Government has launched a new campaign based on the acronym Facts. It stands for:
- Face coverings in enclosed spaces.
- Avoid crowded places.
- Clean hands and surfaces regularly.
- Two-metre distancing.
- Self-isolate and book a test if you have symptoms.
To continue to stop the spread of coronavirus and save lives, there are 5 things we all still need to do.
— Scottish Government (@scotgov) June 19, 2020
First minister defends decision on beer gardens
The resumption of outdoor socialising in pubs had been delayed because of emerging evidence about the transmission of the disease.
Ms Sturgeon said there was a tendency for people to breathe differently in places like gyms and when they drank in pubs, which added to the infection risk.
“Even outdoors, if you are in a noisy environment, maybe there’s music playing. If people are having alcohol, maybe they’re shouting more than normal,” Ms Sturgeon said.
Further investigation is ongoing about more “protective steps” that could be taken, she said. She added that if delaying the opening of pubs by a couple of weeks suppressed the virus enough so that schools could go back in near-normal circumstances in August, that would be a “good balance”.
The First Minister added: “I very much hope to see people able to have a pint – or some of us would prefer a glass of wine or a gin and tonic – in a beer garden before too long.”