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Nicola Sturgeon set to give update on if move to Level 0 will go ahead

Nicola Sturgeon covid update
Nicola Sturgeon

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will confirm today if all of mainland Scotland will move to Level 0 restrictions on July 19 as planned.

She will outline any potential “cautious and careful” changes to the roadmap out of lockdown following a meeting with her cabinet this morning.

The Scottish Parliament will be recalled from summer recess so the first minister can share the statement with MSPs at 2pm today.

The decision to continue with easing of restrictions will depend on the latest case numbers, hospital admissions and the vaccination rollout.

It is also expected there will be an update on travel restrictions and if Scotland will also scrap self-isolation for close contacts who are full vaccinated.

Last week, Ms Sturgeon said she “very much hopes” to move towards easing of restrictions on the planned July 19 date, but that she would also do what is “right” for Scotland – not what is “popular”.

She said that the vaccination programme was a cause for optimism, adding that “for now though that needs to be balanced by concern at the high case numbers we have seen recently.”

Possibility for gradual changes

It is possible that some elements of Level 0 could be introduced from Monday with other restrictions kept in place for longer.

At Level 0, the two-metre social distancing rule would be reduced to one metre in indoor public spaces.

Up to eight people from four households will be able to meet in a private home, while up to 10 people from four households can meet at a pub, restaurant or cafe.

For groups meeting outdoors the numbers able to gather will rise to 15 people from up to 15 households.

A move to Level 0 will also benefit the hospitality sector as businesses will once again be allowed to operate within normal licensing hours.

While Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles are already living under Level 0 restrictions, much of the council areas in the central belt are still in Level 2.

Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Moray and the Highlands have been in Level 1 since June 5.

Current situation in Scotland

Scotland is currently experiencing a surge in Covid cases with 2,134 new positives confirmed yesterday. 

The number of people with confirmed Covid currently in hospital has risen to 469 but this is still significantly lower than admissions during the January peak.

According to the latest data from Public Health Scotland, 20 people were admitted to intensive care overnight doubling the total to 40.

There is a “fluctuating situation” across north and north-east hospitals at the moment with many frontline workers facing mounting pressure.

Raigmore Hospital, Aberdeen Royal Infirmary and Dr Gray’s in Elgin all entered ‘code black’ status last week as the rising Covid cases stretched health facilities to capacity.

Many staff members are currently self-isolating which is causing more pressure and has been met with demands for the rules for those who are fully vaccinated to be reconsidered.

Challenges from other parties

Ahead of today’s statement, Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie has called for immediate government action on vaccines, test and protect and long Covid.

She said: “We need immediate action that meets the scale of the crisis before us.

“That’s why Scottish Labour is calling for the time between vaccine doses to be cut to four weeks, in line with the WHO’s advice, to speed up the vaccine roll-out.

“We are also calling on the government to get a grip of our failing Test and Protect system and instead of cutting corners and lowering standards, do all that they can to support the staff in their efforts.

“We also need to see leadership on long Covid if we are to avoid another health and economic crisis after the pandemic has passed.”

The Scottish Conservatives have insisted that the plans to move to Level 0 must go ahead with Douglas Ross arguing a clear timetable for easing restrictions is needed.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Greens have said Scotland should not follow England’s example, saying this is not “a time to throw caution to the wind and accept widespread infections”.

How can I watch?

The first minister’s statement can be watched on BBC Scotland, the Scottish Government Twitter or on Scottish Parliament TV from 2pm. Follow our live blog for updates.

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