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‘I know that will not make me popular’: Nicola Sturgeon to be cautious ahead of next week’s coronavirus announcement

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon says she will continue to be cautious with coronavirus restrictions, even if it doesn’t make her “popular”.

During an unscheduled coronavirus briefing this afternoon, the first minister set out the issues her government is considering ahead of the Scottish Parliament reconvening next Tuesday 13 July.

She said: “We need to be careful we don’t end up accepting a higher than necessary burden of illness, deaths and pressure on the health service, which also impacts on people needing non-Covid care.

“We need to be cautious because this is human lives we are dealing with.

“That is how I am going to try and navigate this final phase, and I know that will not make me popular.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

“As a politician you like it when you are popular, but never have I been more acutely aware of taking decisions I think are the right ones, not the ones that will make me the most popular.

“For people like me the weight of that responsibility should always feel heavy.”

Sturgeon to continue to take decisions in Scotland based on clinical advice

The first minister’s statement came only an hour after the UK transport secretary announced double-vaccinated people in England will no longer have to quarantine when coming home from an amber country.

However Ms Sturgeon said she will be the one to make these sorts of decisions for the people of Scotland.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

She said: “It is for the prime minister to decide what is right for England and to explain the rationale for the decisions he has taken.

“The dominant media coverage around what is happening in England can be confusing for people in other parts of the UK.

“But we will continue to take decisions here in Scotland with good advice from the clinical teams in government.

“I am responsible for them, when I get them right and when I get them wrong.”

She added the Scottish Government is considering this “carefully” in Scotland and says a decision will be reached “fairly soon”, but added: “I know this is really frustrating and people want answers, but taking the time to monitor the data and working out what is sensible helps us to get to the right position.”

After the briefing the Scottish Greens welcomed the first minister’s cautious approach, and raised concerns about the decision to end coronavirus restrictions in other parts of the UK.

Gillian Mackay, the party’s health spokesperson, said: “I welcome the more cautious language from the first minister than the UK Government’s apparent willingness to give the virus free rein.

Gillian Mackay MSP

“Global health experts have warned the UK not to ‘tolerate high case numbers’ before the vaccine programme is completed, and it is vital Scotland doesn’t follow this dangerous path.”

Government looking at changing isolation rules for frontline health staff

The first minister also said on Thursday that the government is looking to potentially change isolation rules for certain groups, such as those who work in health and social care, and said there may be an announcement on this when parliament reconvenes next week.

This comes after Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, Dr Gray’s Hospital in Elgin and Raigmore Hospital in Inverness declared ‘code black’ after reaching capacity.

NHS Grampian blamed mounting pressures including staff absences due to self-isolation.

Aberdeen Royal Infirmary

Ms Sturgeon said: “The NHS is much busier now with non-Covid care, which is a good thing, and it is catching up on the backlog from earlier in the pandemic.

“But that means pressure is now being felt much more quickly, and in some hospitals they have scaled back on elective care.

“We are currently reviewing the [self-isolation] policy and will set out some information on that in my statement to parliament, in general terms and in relation to particular occupations and workplaces where having large numbers of people self-isolating raises questions about the sustainability of services.”

However this is not fast enough for the Scottish Liberal Democrats, as party leader Willie Rennie said he was “dismayed” the first minister did not make a decision on that today.

Willie Rennie, leader of the Scottish Lib Dems

He said: “I fear for the NHS and other essential services right now because huge numbers of key workers are self-isolating and there was nothing in the first minister’s statement for them.

“There is a critical impact right now and they need an urgent response from the first minister.”

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