The whole of Scotland is “unlikely” to move down to Level 0 of Covid restrictions on June 28 as previously projected, Nicola Sturgeon has announced.
Updating MSPs in Holyrood on Tuesday, the first minister said the pause was necessary to “buy ourselves sufficient time” to get more people fully vaccinated.
It comes as cases in Scotland continue to grow due to the Delta variant.
Currently only the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland are in Level 0, with most of the country’s population living under Level 2 restrictions.
Sturgeon will confirm the delay at the three-week review of restrictions next week in Parliament, with the move to Level 0 likely to be postponed until after the next review point.
It follows a similar delay to the lifting of restrictions in England, announced by Boris Johnson on Monday.
Sturgeon said: “Given the current situation – and the need to get more people fully vaccinated before we ease up further – it is reasonable to indicate now that I think it unlikely that any part of the country will move down a level from June 28.
“Instead, it is likely that we will opt to maintain restrictions for a further three weeks from June 28 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.”
What Level 0 looks like
At Level 0, groups of up to eight people from four households can meet in private homes and stay overnight. Up to ten people from four households can meet indoors in an indoor public place like a café, pub or restaurant.
Outdoors, up to 15 people from 15 households can meet. Weddings and funerals can have up to 200 attendees.
Almost all places and businesses can open, including a limited and phased return to offices. Nightclubs and adult entertainment venues will remain closed, however.
Beyond Level 0
Sturgeon also said that the Scottish Government will lay out how restrictions will look after Level 0 in the lockdown easing route map, with a paper to be published next week.
“This is important because, while we have had to pause the route map, we do still hope that vaccination will allow us, over the summer, to move beyond Level 0 and back to a much greater degree of normality,” the first minister said.
The final report of a review of physical distancing will also be released.
The latest update comes as the average age of people in hospital with Covid-19 in Scotland is falling.
The first minister said the highest number of new admissions was in those in their 30s and 40s.
Sturgeon said: “The fact that more of the recent hospital admissions are in younger age groups may mean that fewer of the people being admitted are becoming seriously ill or requiring intensive care. It made also help to explain my next point.
“Hospital occupancy – the total number of people with Covid in hospital at any given time – is not rising at the same rate as hospital admissions or cases.
“Indeed, while there has been an approximate five-fold increase in cases since the start of May, hospital occupancy is around double what it was at the start of May.
“That suggests that people are being discharged more quickly and spending, on average, less time in hospital than patients in earlier phases of the pandemic. Again, though, while that is encouraging, further analysis is needed to confirm this.”
Scotland has recorded two deaths of coronavirus patients and 974 new cases in the past 24 hours, the latest Scottish Government figures show.
The number of people who have died having first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days is now 7,683.
The daily test positivity rate is 5%, down from 5.2% the previous day.
A total of 137 people were in hospital on Monday with recently confirmed Covid-19, up from 128 on Sunday, with 17 patients in intensive care – no change.
So far, 3,531,461 people have received the first dose of a Covid-19 vaccination and 2,470,18 have received their second dose.
The Scottish Government noted IT issues at Public Health Scotland on Tuesday mean vaccination figures may be an under-estimate and any missing data will be added to Wednesday’s statistics.
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