The Scottish Government will “pay attention”to advice published tomorrow by the UK Government on the two-metre social distancing rule, the First Minister has said.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to make a statement to the UK Parliament on Tuesday on proposals to cut physical distancing measures from two metres and relax lockdown restrictions for the hospitality industry in England, after senior ministers meet scientific advisers on Monday afternoon.
Speaking during her daily briefing on Monday, the First Minister said the Scottish Government will “pay attention to any evidence and advice that is published to support a UK Government decision”.
When asked if the publication of UK Government advice tomorrow would “speed up” her own government’s review, the First Minister said it would not be “very far behind” the UK Government in terms of the reporting of advice, adding this would be published by July 2 at the “very latest”.
She said: “In areas that are within my responsibility as First Minister, it’s important that I and the Scottish Government will take our own decisions based on our advice because I’m accountable to parliament and to the Scottish people.
“But of course, as we always do, we will pay attention to developments elsewhere, whether that’s other parts of the UK, particularly other parts of the UK given the geography and indeed other parts of the world.
Of course we’ll pay attention to any evidence and advice that is published to support a UK Government decision.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon
“We have to go through a process of making the assessments and listening to the evidence and applying the judgement in our own way.
“We will have that advice very soon; as I said, I will report on it by July 2 at the latest and I will do that.
“Of course we’ll pay attention to any evidence and advice that is published to support a UK Government decision.”
Ms Sturgeon said there is “no safe distance” but added that risk increases the shorter the distance and depending on the surrounding environment.
She added: “I would simply say this, this isn’t just a straightforward, black and white, binary issue.
“We have to consider these issues carefully and that’s what we will do.
“But in terms of the advice that’s coming and the reporting of that, we’re not going to be very far behind whatever the decision might be in the UK tomorrow.”
The First Minister has previously pointed to a recent study, partly funded by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and published in the Lancet, which found that reducing physical distancing advice from two metres to one metre could double the risk of coronavirus infection.
The study, which has been referenced by the First Minister in both the Scottish Parliament and during her daily media briefings, found that keeping a distance of more than one metre from other people reduced the risk of infection to 3%, compared with 13% if standing within a metre.
The WHO has recommended that people should physically distance by at least one metre, following a review of 44 comparative studies on the issue.
When asked what Boris Johnson made of scientific critics, including the independent Sage group, coming out against reducing the two-metre guidance, a No 10 spokesman said: “The Prime Minister has asked for a review to be conducted by the permanent secretary in No 10 and that review has of course considered a range of medical and economic advice.
“The committee will meet later on and will be free to discuss and consider whatever information they decide.”
Warning on ‘second wave’
The First Minister also used Monday’s daily briefing to warn of other countries, including China and Germany, who are already dealing with spikes in cases as a result of “significant outbreaks”.
She added: “And health officials in South Korea have said they think the country is now experiencing a second wave.
“I know that when numbers of cases and deaths here are continuing to fall it is very tempting for all of us to think it is all over and we should just now quickly get back to normal.
“We are trying to get back to normal and we want to do that as quickly as possible but let me reiterate my strong view that acting recklessly now would be a serious mistake.
“We must continue to be cautious and all of us must continue to adhere strictly to the public health advice.
“That will help us continue progress and avoid a resurgence of the virus now.”