A three-week delay to moving to Level 0 has been announced.
Originally earmarked for June 28, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced that Scotland is likely to see a three-week delay in the easing of lockdown restrictions, in a bid to tackle the sharp increase in cases that have developed as a result of the Delta variant taking a hold of the UK.
Announcing the news to Holyrood this afternoon, Nicola Sturgeon said: “Given the current situation – and the need to get more people fully vaccinated before we ease up further – it is reasonable to indicate now that I think it unlikely that any part of the country will move down a level from 28 June.
“Instead, it is likely that we will opt to maintain restrictions for a further three weeks from 28 June and use that time to vaccinate – with both doses – as many more people as possible. Doing that will give us the best chance, later in July, of getting back on track and restoring the much greater normality that we all crave.”
The First Minister revealed an increase in infections, with 6,651 new cases being reported in the last week in Scotland and cases are now more than five times higher than they were in early May. She added in her statement that a new study by Edinburgh University suggested that the Delta variant is associated with a higher risk of hospitalization than other variants, but that double dose vaccination continues to provide a high level of protection against infection with the virus.
She said: “All of the evidence so far suggests that while it has not been completely broken yet, vaccination is weakening the link between the rise in new cases and a rise in hospitalisations and serious illness. So there is much in these studies about the impact of vaccination to be optimistic about.”
A formal decision as to whether the country’s mainland council areas (who are currently in either Level 1 or 2) will move join many island communities in Level 0 will not be made until next week. The First Minister also told MSPs this afternoon: “We will publish a paper setting out what we hope life will look like beyond level 0 – as we get to the point where we can lift all, or virtually all, of the remaining restrictions. This is important because, while we have had to pause the routemap, we do still hope that vaccination will allow us, over the summer, to move beyond level 0 and back to a much greater degree of normality.”
The delay to easing restrictions will allow more adults to receive their first and second vaccination ahead of the possible new date of July 19. Currently, over 3.5m people in Scotland have received their first dose of the vaccine, however, Nicola Sturgeon announced that the Scottish government were “making preparations for the possible vaccination of 12-17 year olds, should the advice we get from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation recommend that.”
The revised date for moving to Level 0 would bring Scotland in line with England’s revised date, which Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Monday evening, and sees a four-week delay to easing restrictions.