Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

Scots warned not to expect much lockdown easing next week as ministers focus on schools return

School children during a class at a primary school.

Scots have been told not to expect any significant easing of restrictions at next week’s lockdown review, as the Scottish Government focuses on the reopening of schools and the shielding group.

Nicola Sturgeon said her top priorities were for children to return to the classroom on a full-time basis next month and for extra restrictions on the country’s most vulnerable to be lifted, and both will require levels of the virus to “remain very low”.

Scotland has been in phase three of a four-part “route map” out of lockdown for two weeks but Ms Sturgeon warned the public not to expect a move to the final phase when the arrangements are reviewed next Thursday.

The country spent three weeks in phase two of the plan but the first minister said this current phase is “likely to last considerably longer than that”.

Speaking at the coronavirus briefing on Wednesday, Ms Sturgeon confirmed a final decision on lifting restrictions will not be made until next week but an update on the shielding group is expected on Thursday.

She said: “We cannot leave restrictions in place for longer than we judge to be necessary but I did want to flag up now that it is possible we may not be able to make any changes next week beyond confirming the return of schooling and a pause in shielding.

“And so for those businesses who are still waiting for a date to restart, I want to thank you for your ongoing patience.

“I fully understand how difficult any further delay is for you. I also hope you understand why we need to act safely and cautiously and prioritise the reopening of schools.”

Deaths across Scotland have now dropped to pre-Covid-19 levels for the first time since late March.

Ms Sturgeon said changes were being made “at a pace and at a level we think is right and safe for our current circumstances here in Scotland” and with infection rates rising elsewhere, her officials “need to be confident it is safe to change restrictions further”.

The final phase of lockdown is expected to see a relaxation of the rules around social and public gatherings, public transport and a resumption of mass gatherings.

A number of sectors are also still awaiting a reopening date as part of phase three, including indoor gyms, theatres, non-essential offices and call centres, and bingo halls – all of which have been told they will not open before July 31.

The first minister’s warning came as the number of deaths from Covid-19 fell to the lowest level in Scotland since the outbreak began.

Lab technician moves a case of test tubes while conducting research on Covid-19.

Figures from the National Records of Scotland showed just six deaths linked to the virus occurred between July 13 and July 19, down seven from 13 the previous week.

It is the lowest weekly toll since coronavirus deaths in Scotland began in March and the 12th week in a row that the number of deaths has fallen. At the peak of the outbreak in April, more than 600 deaths were being logged each week with links to Covid-19.

Ms Sturgeon said the figures showed the virus was being “driven down to very low levels” in Scotland but she stressed they are also a reminder of the 4,193 “unique and irreplaceable” individuals who had now died from the disease.

The first minister said just 0.3% of coronavirus tests were coming back with positive results, well below the 5% threshold at which the World Health Organisation considers outbreaks to be “under control”.

Already a subscriber? Sign in

[[title]]

[[text]]

More from the Press and Journal Scottish politics team

More from the Press and Journal