We are making progress suppressing Covid-19 – but we are not out of danger

I am pleased to report that we continue to make progress in suppressing COVID-19.

The restrictions put in place many weeks ago are working – and your cooperation in staying at home, except for essential purposes, is reducing the numbers of people becoming seriously ill and it is saving lives.

However, our progress at this stage remains fragile, and we are not yet out of danger.

I have been clear from the outset of this pandemic that my priority is protecting people from the virus as best we can. All of the Scottish Governments’s decisions will be driven by this objective and we will base them on the best science and evidence available to us.

The current evidence shows that while we have made real progress, the risk COVID-19 poses to Scotland is still too great, and so for now we cannot make substantial changes to the restrictions we are all living with.

I have previously explained the significance of the R number on decision making, and at the moment we are not confident that it is far enough below 1 to avoid a rapid resurgence of the virus should we lift restrictions at this stage. Indeed, we think it may be slightly higher in Scotland than other parts of the UK as we may be at an earlier stage in the infection curve.

These differences mean that within our overall approach of working together, the four UK nations may well move at different speeds in the days and weeks ahead. This is not driven by politics in any way – the only relevant factor is what we judge is necessary to drive infection rates even lower. We continue to monitor that closely and while we will not lift restrictions prematurely, we will not keep them in place any longer than necessary either.

For now, my message to people in Scotland is that we need to stay patient, and stay at home, except for the essential reasons of getting food and medicine, exercising and doing essential work that can’t be done at home.

I understand that as time goes on, frustrations can increase. Especially when we experience bouts of sunshine!

We miss our loved ones more, we miss our old daily routines and popping out for a coffee and cake. But I must be clear – if we all stick to the rules now, this will be over sooner.

What we do not want, and what we absolutely cannot risk in seeking that return to normal – meeting up with a friend or family member – is that we unravel the progress earned so far and allow the spread of the virus to increase once again.

However we have made one slight change to the guidance this week to allow you to spend more time outdoors.

The previous advice was to only go outside to exercise no more than once a day. You can now go outside to exercise – near your home – as often as you like. But you must remain in your local area.

You should still stay at least 2 metres (6 feet) away from others, not meet up with people outside of your household, and continue to wash your hands regularly – it’s vital in stopping the spread.

Remember, COVID-19 is invisible in many ways. You could carry it unknowingly. So the one time you ignore the guidance could be the time when you infect a friend or family member, or indeed you yourself get infected.

So please stick with it, follow the guidance and keep doing the right thing.

Whilst we continue to assess the health-based situation, the Scottish Government is continuously looking at how we can mitigate the wider impacts of the virus on our economy and wellbeing.

In the past week we have significantly increased support for businesses which are suffering through no fault of their own, by doubling a fund for small-medium enterprises which are vital to Scotland’s local or national economy to £90 million, and creating a £100 million loan fund for house builders.

We are also investing an additional £19.2 million in the Carer’s Allowance Supplement.  Unpaid carers are absolutely vital to our society and it is right that we show recognition of their contribution, particularly as they face huge challenges during the health pandemic.

This increased funding will mean around 83,000 eligible carers will get an extra £230.10 through a special one-off supplement in June.

Community groups supporting charities, volunteers and social enterprises in coordinating responses to the impacts of COVID-19 will also share a £10 million funding boost.

Housing associations in Govan are using £200,000 to provide isolated tenants with free meals, power card top-ups and access to medical supplies. For many, this support will be a lifeline and it will also provide access to services across mental health, addiction and domestic violence if it is needed.

These are testing times, more so for some than others. The government is here to help and we will continue to look at more ways to support business and communities across Scotland as we work our way through this crisis.