The Scotsman

‘Why I won’t adopt the Stay Alert message’: First Minister on why Scots must remain at home

- Comment Nicola Sturgeon

The coronaviru­s pandemic is a massive challenge for all of us – and without question the biggest I have faced in the five-and-a-half years I have been privileged to serve as First Minister.

And today, like every day since we entered these difficult times, it is my responsibi­lity to take the judgments that I think are right for keeping Scotland safe.

We are making progress in tackling the pandemic but that progress is fragile and could easily be undone.

That is why I am reiteratin­g, in the strongest possible way, that the message to people here in Scotland remains Stay at Home – unless you have to go out for food, medicine, exercise or to do essential work that can’t be done at home. The public have responded magnificen­tly to that appeal over recent weeks but it is too soon to change that message.

The new slogan introduced by the Prime Minister for the people of England, to “Stay Alert”, is, I am afraid to say, vague and imprecise, and dilutes the crystal clear call for people to remain at home.

Clarity of message is vital, and for that reason I have asked the UK Government not to deploy its Stay Alert ad campaign in Scotland.

The rate of transmissi­on of the virus in Scotland – the so-called R number – is still too high for any significan­t change to be safe at this stage. Indeed, the R number may be slightly higher in Scotland than in other parts of the UK.

That means we must be very careful – we must not squander the progress made by easing up too soon.

Let me be blunt about the consequenc­es if we do that – more people will die and, instead of being able to loosen restrictio­ns, we will be faced with having to tighten them. That is a risk we cannot afford to take.

Yesterday, I announced one change to the guidance here in Scotland, which means that, from today, people will be able to leave home to exercise more than once a day, provided that they remain close to home and observe social distancing rules.

That does not apply to households where someone has symptoms of Covid-19 or to people who are in the shielded group. In those casdownwar­d es, people should still stay at home completely.

And for everybody, all the other current lockdown restrictio­ns remain in place.

That means that, although from today there is more freedom to exercise, that does not yet extend to outdoor leisure activities such as sunbathing, picnics or barbecues, or meeting up in groups at the park or the beach.

The advice remains to stay at home except for essential purposes such as exercise or buying food or medicines; to stay more than 2m from other people and not to meet up with people from other households; to wear a face covering when in a shop or on public transport – and to isolate completely if you or someone else in your household has symptoms. But we will continue to monitor things closely with a view to making further changes as soon as we can, as we hopefully see more evidence of a trend in the virus. That will, I hope, allow us to extend the range of permissibl­e outdoor activities. We will also consider whether garden centres can reopen, whether some additional forms of outdoor work can safely resume and will also be looking urgently – in close discussion with councils – at the possibilit­y of reopening waste and recycling centres.

Beyond that, we will continue to consider when and how more businesses can safely start to reopen, what changes will be required to public transport and when and how children can start returning to school – but I do not expect that schools in Scotland will start to return as early as June 1. When it comes to the proposed moves by the UK Government for a period of quarantine for people travelling into the UK, that is something I have made it clear that I believe is vital to our efforts to contain the virus.

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