Nicola Sturgeon announces move to Phase 3 of lockdown in Scotland

In Scotland, Covid has now been suppressed to a low level. Indeed, even in the three weeks since I last updated Parliament, there has been significant progress.

At that time, we were reporting approximately 20 new cases of Covid a day. The daily average now is around 7. Three weeks ago there were more than 540 people in hospital with confirmed Covid. The figure today is 342.

And there are now just three patients with confirmed Covid in our intensive care units. The number of people dying has also fallen week-on-week, as is shown in our daily statistics and in the weekly reports of National Records of Scotland.

In addition, our latest modelling suggests the R number remains below 1. It has been between 0.6 and 0.8 for most of the past month and the number of people in Scotland with the virus continues to fall.

Three weeks ago we estimated that around 2,900 people were infectious. Our estimate for last week is that around 1,000 people in Scotland were infectious.

That confirms, as I explained yesterday when setting out our decision on air bridges, that prevalence of the virus in Scotland at this stage is several times lower than it is across the UK as a whole.

Finally, in determining whether we can move from Phase 2 to Phase 3 of exiting lockdown we have assessed our progress in tackling Covid against the six criteria for this stage set out by the WHO and we have concluded that we would meet each of them.

However, I need to advise Parliament that the fifth of these criteria, which relates to the risk of managing imports of the virus from outside Scotland, did give us some pause for thought.

The balanced decision we announced yesterday on air bridges was essential for us to conclude at this stage that we are managing that risk in an effective and proportionate manner.

However, it is essential that we keep this risk under close review. To be clear, this must cover the possibility of importation from other parts of the UK as well as from overseas.

Taking all of these various factors into account I can confirm it is the judgement of the Government that we can now move from Phase 2 to Phase 3 of the routemap.

I can also confirm we will allow, in a limited number of sectors, an exception to be made to the requirement for 2-metre physical distancing, however this will be subject to strict conditions tailored to the circumstances of each sector.

Let me stress the term ‘exception’. The general rule remains 2m. For public transport and the retail sector this exception will be permissible from tomorrow, however it is essential that the required mitigations are in place and appropriate discussions have taken place with trade unions before it becomes operational in any particular setting.

Given some of what I’ll cover later, it’s also worth being clear at this point that the retail sector includes personal services such as hairdressing.

I also want to remind everyone that face coverings, already mandatory on public transport, will, from tomorrow, be mandatory in shops as well.

There will be some exemptions for young children under 5, people with certain health conditions, and for staff in some circumstances. For the vast majority of us, however, it will be the law that we wear face coverings in shops.

Wearing a face covering on a bus, train, or in a shop, should, for the foreseeable future, become as automatic as putting on a seatbelt in a car. It should not need to be enforced but the police can issue fines for anyone not complying.

However, I am asking everyone to comply, not from fear of enforcement, but because it is the right thing to do. It helps us protect each other from the virus.

That leads me to a general point that it is important to stress before I outline the further restrictions we intend to lift.

The virus hasn’t gone away. It’s still out there and is still just as infectious and just as dangerous as it ever was.

Lockdown has suppressed it but as lockdown eases there’s a very real risk it will start to spread again – and that is not conjecture. It is already happening in many parts of the world.

With every restriction we lift the risk increases, especially as we start to permit more indoor activity. So all of us must do everything we can to mitigate it.

Wearing face coverings is part of that, but so too are the other measures summarised in our FACTS campaign.

Face coverings.

Avoid crowded places.

Cleaning hands and hard surfaces.

Two-metre distancing.

Self-isolation and booking a test if you have symptoms.

I simply cannot stress enough that as we move out of lockdown these basic measures become much more important – not less. Please follow them to the letter.

Let me now confirm the steps for Phase 3, for which we are now able to set specific dates. You’ll find more detail on later today.

As will be obvious from what I’m about to say, we intend to take the same staggered approach to Phase 3 as we did to Phase 2. Not all changes will happen immediately or at the same time. That means we are not bearing all of the risk at once.

However, the first change relating to the ability of different households to meet up together will take effect tomorrow. The Health Secretary yesterday announced important changes for people who are shielding.

For example, from today you will no longer be asked to physically distance from people you live with and will be abld to form an extended household if you live on your own or with children under 18.

Today’s routemap includes a link to the additional changes we hope to make to the shielding advice up to the end of July.

The other changes I’m about to announce do not apply to people who are shielding, unfortunately, but do apply to everyone else.

Before I set out what these are let me make a general point. Last week we said children under 12 no longer have to physically distance when outdoors. From tomorrow, that will apply indoors too.

However, for adults and, for the time being, older children, the advice to keep a 2m physical distance from people in other households will remain.

But the general rules on household gatherings will be, from tomorrow, as follows.

A maximum of 15 people from up to 5 different households can meet together outdoors.

The advice is to remain 2m distant to people from other households to your own. From tomorrow, limited indoor gatherings will also be permitted. A maximum of 8 people from 3 different households can meet indoors.

To be clear, that is the household whose gathering it is in, and people from up to 2 additional households. As long as physical distancing from different households is maintained, this can include overnight stays.

I must stress though, this is one of, if not the highest risk change we have made so far. We know the risk of transmitting the virus indoors is significantly higher than it is outdoors… it is essential that we all take the utmost care and strictly follow all of the public health advice.

That means keeping 2m distant from people in other households, being very careful to clean surfaces after you touch them, and washing your hands regularly – especially when you first enter someone’s house.

At all times try to avoid creating bridges that allow the virus to spread from one household to another.

We’re also advising that, between indoors and outdoors activity, adults don’t meet with people from any more than 4 different households in any single day.

Finally, from tomorrow we will change the guidance so people who are part of a non-cohabiting couple, regardless of their living arrangements, no longer need to stay physically distant from each other, indoors or outdoors.

The next set of changes will take effect from Monday 13th July. From Monday, organised outdoor contact sports and physical activity can resume for children and young people subject to guidance being followed, and so too can other forms of organised outdoor play.

Non-essential shops inside shopping centres can reopen, provided of course they follow all relevant health and safety guidance. That will mean that the vast majority of retail from Monday will be open.

There will also from Monday be an important further resumption of public services, community optometry practices will further increase their services, especially for emergency and essential eyecare.

Dental practices will be able to see registered patients for non-aerosol procedures. To explain that a bit more, aerosol procedures are those that create a fine mist – for example through use of a high-speed drill – and we cannot yet allow these.

Unfortunately this means many forms of dental care will still not be possible, however procedures such as check-ups and the fitting of dentures and dental braces can resume.

From Monday, a woman can have a designated person accompany her to ante and post-natal appointments, and in addition to her birth partner, can designate one other person to attend the birth and also make ante and post-natal ward visits.

Further changes will then come into force from Wednesday next week – 15th July. From that date indoor restaurants, cafes and pubs will be able to reopen.

However, just as with indoor household meetings, opening up indoor hospitality poses significantly increased risks of transmission, so it is absolutely essential that the guidance on health and safety is followed rigorously.

By businesses, by staff, and by customers. That includes guidance on physical distancing and also taking customer contact details for use if necessary by Test and Protect.

Like public transport and retail, indoor and outdoor hospitality venues will be granted an exemption from the 2m rule from the 15th July – this is dependent on the implementation of all relevant mitigating measures and appropriate discussions taking place with trade unions.

Mitigating measures in this sector include, for example, clear information for customers that they’re entering a 1m zone, revised seating plans, and improved ventilation.

The tourism sector can also open from 15th July. That means all holiday accommodation, including hotels, can reopen as long as the appropriate guidance is followed.

Museums, galleries, other visitor attractions, libraries and cinemas – including drive-ins and other venues screening films – can also reopen on the 15th, although physical distancing and other safety measures will be required. And for many, if not most of these facilities, tickets must be secured in advance.

The childcare sector can also fully reopen from next Wednesday – something I know is important to families across Scotland.

I can also confirm that from 15th July hairdressers can reopen, subject to enhanced hygiene measures being in place, and the finalised guidance for hairdressers will be published this week.

Finally, I’m pleased that we are able to bring forward two changes we were previously keeping under review for later in Phase 3 but that we now judge can be undertaken safely next week – provided necessary mitigations are in place.

After careful consideration we have decided from 15th July, places of worship can reopen for communal player, congregational services and contemplation.

However, numbers will be strictly limited, 2-metre physical distancing will be required, and there will also be a requirement to collect the contact details and time of attendance of those entering a place of worship.

And, unfortunately, given what we know of transmission risks, singing and chanting will also be restricted.

Detailed guidance is currently being finalised in consultation with our faith communities but I hope today’s announcement will be welcomed by all those for whom faith and worship is important and a source of comfort.

In addition to that and linked to that change we will also ease restrictions on attendance at services and ceremonies for funerals, weddings and civil partnerships. However, numbers will be even more limited than for worship generally and physical distancing required.

And I must stress this change applies only to services. Associated gatherings such as wakes or receptions must continue to follow the limits on household gatherings and hospitality.

I am acutely aware that the restrictions we’ve had to place on attendance at funerals in these past few months have been particularly hard to bear and I’m very grateful to everyone who has complied in what will, I know, have been heartbreaking circumstances.

While the changes which come into effect next week will not allow full-scale gatherings just yet, I hope they will allow more people to find solace at a time of grief as well as allowing more people to celebrate happier occasions such as weddings and civil partnerships.

The next set of changes will take effect from 22nd July. At that time personal retail services, which have not yet been able to reopen, for example beauticians and nail salons, will be able to reopen with enhanced hygiene measures in place.

Universities and colleges can implement a phased return to campus learning as part of a blended model with remote teaching. Motorcycle instruction and theory and hazard tests can also resume from that date.

But driving lessons in cars unfortunately will have to wait a bit longer. Unfortunately there are other activities which are included in Phase 3 of the routemap that we are not yet able to attach a firm and specific date to.

However, while we will keep all of this under review, and as we have done with communal worship, bring dates forward whenever possible, it should be assumed at this stage that these other activities will not restart before 31st July.

These activities include the reopening of nonessential offices and call centres, the resumption of outdoor live events, and the reopening of indoor entertainment venues such as theatres, music venues and bingo halls.

They also include the reopening of indoor gyms and the resumption of nonprofessional adult outdoor contact sports.

We will continue to work closely with relevant sectors on the reopening as soon as possible of all these activities.

For example, we’ll work with the outdoor events sector to review the range of events that could take place as we recognise a one-size-fits-all approach may not be appropriate. However, I hope it will be appreciated, however difficult I know this is, that a number of these activities present particular challenges.

And while I do know it is difficult, it will take a bit more time to work through how these can be safely addressed. I also want to indicate at this stage that our current expectation is Phase 3 may well last longer than three weeks.

Given the scale of the changes we are making in Phase 3, it may be wise not to rush that or go into Phase 4 too quickly. But we will keep that under close review.

Let me reiterate that it is our ambition and our intention that schools will return full-time in August.

Indeed, this is dependent on the virus continuing to be suppressed to very low levels and therefore it is one of the reasons we are being so careful and cautious in everything else we do right now.

There’s no doubt today’s statement marks the most significant milestone yet in Scotland’s emergence from lockdown, and I hope the measures we have announced or confirmed today are welcome.

All of them of course depend on us keeping the virus under control – eliminating it as far as we possibly can now, ahead of the – I’m afraid to say – almost inevitable challenges we will face come winter, remains our objective.

And we will not hesitate to reimpose restrictions if we consider it necessary to halt the spread of the virus and save lives.

I will make a further statement to Parliament on 30th July, and between now and then will deliver updates through the regular media briefings.

However I want to end by stressing the point I made at the outset. It is perhaps the most important point of all.

This is undoubtedly a time for cautious hope and optimism. There is no doubt Scotland, through our collective efforts, has made great progress in tackling Covid.

We should all savour our first indoor meetings and meals with friends, our first pint in a pub or catch-up over coffee.

Many of us, I know, are looking forward to our first non-amateur haircut in many months. And there will be other milestones and reunions that we will enjoy over the next few weeks. They have all been hard-earned by each and every one of us.

But I have a duty to be crystal clear with the country that this is also a time of real danger. Next week represents the most substantial easing of lockdown so far, and we know that meeting people indoors poses far greater risk than going to a park or someone’s garden.

As I said earlier on, we see signs of resurgence in many countries across the world right now.

We must all be aware of that in everything we do. We must remember that Covid, although currently at very low levels in Scotland, is still out there.

And everything we learn about this still-new virus, about its infectiousness, its ability to kill, and its potential to do long-term damage to health, should warn us that we mess with it at our peril.

Perhaps more than ever, now is a time of great caution.

Remember that life should still not feel entirely normal and at all times, especially when we’re meeting indoors with people from other households, we must be constantly alert to the steps we need to take to deny it the chance to spread.

That’s why the most important thing that everyone should remember and abide by is FACTS.

Face coverings must be worn in enclosed spaces – public transport, shops, and indeed anywhere else physically distancing is more difficult.

Avoid – literally, like the plague – crowded places, indoors or outdoors.

Clean your hands regularly and thoroughly and clean hard surfaces after touching them.

Two-metre distancing remains the clear and important advice.

And self-isolate and book a test immediately if you have symptoms of Covid.

The symptoms to be aware of are a cough, a fever, or a loss of or change in your sense of taste or smell. You can book a test at NHS Inform or by phoning 0800 028 2816.

And, please, act immediately. Err on the side of caution. If you have any reason at all to worry you might have Covid symptoms get tested straight away.

It is only because of our collective action, our love for and solidarity with each other that we have made so much progress. Now is not the time to drop our guard, so let’s all keep doing the right things to keep ourselves safe, to protect others, and to save lives.