Sturgeon: further easing of restrictions this month ‘unlikely’

Three-week pause likely to allow further vaccinations

Physical distancing review to be published next week

THE planned easing of coronavirus restrictions from 28th June is “unlikely” to go ahead, the first minister has said.

Speaking in the Scottish Parliament today (15th June), Nicola Sturgeon said the further easing of coronavirus restrictions planned for later this month – when mainland Scotland was intended to move to level zero of restrictions – is likely to be paused for a further three weeks in order to “buy ourselves sufficient time for the vaccination to get ahead and to stay ahead of the virus”.

The statement came less than 24 hours after prime minister Boris Johnson announced the easing of restrictions in England – planned for 21st June – would be paused for four weeks.

Mainland Scotland was originally hoped to move to level zero of restrictions from 28th June. While several of the Scottish islands are already in level zero, 15 local authorities are in level one with 14 areas in level two of restrictions.

“Our next full scheduled review of the protection levels will take place next week, and this will consider whether any changes are possible from the 28th of June onwards – the date when we had hoped we would see the whole country move down to level zero,” said Sturgeon.

“I will confirm our decision to parliament next week following that review. However, given the current situation and the need to get more people fully vaccinated before we ease up further, it is reasonable, I think, to indicate now that it is unlikely that any part of the country will move down a level from the 28th of June.

“Instead it is more likely that we will opt to maintain restrictions for a further three weeks from the 28th of 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.”

Sturgeon added that two papers will be published next week. One will set out “what we hope life will look like beyond level zero as we get to the point where we can lift all – or at least virtually all – of the remaining restrictions”.

The other will be the outcome of the Scottish Government’s review of physical distancing.

Sturgeon said: “Given the uncertainties of the current situation – in particular the greater transmissibility of the Delta variant – we have taken a bit longer to consider this than we had originally planned.

“However, I know how important this is – in hospitality, certainly, but also for theatres and cinemas and the arts more generally – as they all consider how they can operate sustainably over the medium to long term.”