Nicola Sturgeon has pleaded with Scots to continue their “positive” steps in fighting coronavirus as she announced the lockdown would continue for at least another three weeks.
The first minister said easing restrictions in place across the country at the moment would risk an “immediate and exponential resurgence” of Covid-19 that would claim more lives and place huge pressure on the NHS and care homes.
Speaking at a press conference in Edinburgh she added: “The clear advice to me is that these measures must stay in place for a period of three more weeks at least.
“Our view of the impact of the lockdown restrictions so far. Here I want to stress that the news is positive and I thank all of you for the part you are playing.
“Early indications are that the lockdown restrictions have resulted in a slowing down of the rate of community transmission of the virus.
“And while of course we cannot be complacent, that slow-down appears to be reflected in a stabilisation of the numbers being admitted to hospital and intensive care.”
She said it was “hard to be optimistic” given the number of deaths due to Covid-19, but added she was hopeful of a slowing down in the rate of Scottish fatalities in the near-future too.
Ms Sturgeon also thanked Scots “from the bottom of my heart” for complying with the restrictions.
She added: “The very difficult sacrifices you are all making are working. They are slowing the spread of the virus, they are helping to protect the NHS and they are saving lives.
“However I must ask you to continue to make these sacrifices for a bit longer.”
She said the measures must endure for “at least three more weeks”.
Scots will continue only being able to leave their homes for vital shopping, travel to and from essential work, for medical purposes, to care for a vulnerable person, or for a daily exercise.
Ms Sturgeon added the spread of Covid-19 had “not slowed sufficiently” to allow for these restrictions to be lifted.
She added: “We would risk an immediate and potentially exponential resurgence of the virus”.
This, she said, would “result in our NHS being quickly overwhelmed, it could result in even more cases in our care homes and it would also mean much more loss of life”.
Ms Sturgeon added: “It could also lead to the reintroduction of even more stringent restrictions in the future with substantially more damage to the economy as a result.
“All of the progress we have achieved together in these last few weeks through high compliance with the lockdown restrictions would be lost.
“Difficult though this is, I hope you will all agree that this is a risk we simply cannot take. That is why I am asking all of you to continue to comply with these rules.”
The Scottish Government’s decision was made following advice from the the country’s scientific advisory group and Chief Medical Officer.
The announcement came after UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab confirmed the extension of the lockdown for a further three weeks at a press conference in London.
He said: “Earlier today I chaired meetings of the Cabinet and Cobra to consider the advice from Sage on the impact of the existing social distancing measures.
“There are indications that the measures we have put in place have been successful in slowing down the spread of this virus. But Sage also say that is a mixed and inconsistent picture and, in some settings, infections are still likely to be increasing.”
The rate of infection – the R0 value – was “almost certainly below one in the community”, meaning infected people were passing the disease on to fewer than one other person on average.
“But overall we still don’t have the infection rate down as far as we need to,” he told the daily Downing Street news conference.
He said the lockdown will be reviewed at the end of April.
For more on this story follow our coronavirus live blog.
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