‘Hard but necessary decisions’ to be made on coronavirus

Nicola Sturgeon said she hopes to attend a Cobra meeting with Boris Johnson over the weekend.

Nicola Sturgeon has signalled “hard but necessary decisions” will likely have to be made in the coming days to head off surging cases of coronavirus.

The First Minister said the country is at a “critical moment” as 203 new cases were recorded in Scotland overnight, the fourth day in a row of more than 200 cases.

Another person with the virus has died, Sturgeon added.

Speaking at Friday’s Covid-19 briefing, she said she wants to avoid another national lockdown but that “doing nothing almost certainly isn’t an option”.

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The First Minister said she asked Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier on Friday morning to convene an emergency Cobra meeting over the weekend so the four UK nations can discuss their options.

She acknowledged a widely-reported a meeting on Thursday of the UK Government’s expert scientific group SAGE, where a potential two-week “circuit breaker” national lockdown is thought to have been discussed.

Sturgeon urged the public this weekend to “rigorously” follow all the public health rules and advice.

She warned Scotland is “facing the risk again of exponential growth in Covid” and that the situation is “deteriorating”.

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Scotland’s 203 new infections on Friday account for 4.4% of newly-tested individuals.

World Health Organisation guidance suggests a country only has its Covid-19 epidemic under control if it can keep that percentage below 5%.

Acknowledging that, the First Minister said there is a real risk “the virus could get out of our grip again” but added there is still time to prevent this happening.

Sturgeon told the briefing: “We need to act to interrupt that exponential growth.

“No one wants to see another full-scale lockdown – and above all we want to keep schools and childcare open because we know how important that is to the education and to the broader wellbeing of children and young people.”

But she said the UK is facing its “most critical moment of decision” in the pandemic since the lockdown was first implemented in March.

She continued: “We are seeing increasing numbers of places both here in Scotland and across the rest of the UK that are under local and regional restrictions.

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“The bottom line here is that this virus is on the rise again. 

“Our case numbers are not yet rising as fast as they were back in March but they are rising again and they are rising quite rapidly.

“The percentage of tests coming back positive is also not anywhere near as high as it was back in March but again it is rising and the R number we believe is above one.”

She said that what is happening in England, where hospital admissions and ICU admissions are rising, should be seen as a “warning signal” for Scotland.

The FM also cited France, suggesting Scotland could be on a “similar path”, where the country is now seeing thousands of cases a day with hundreds in intensive care, and rising deaths.

In Scotland, 61 people in hospital are being treated for coronavirus, up by nine in the last 24 hours, although the numbers in intensive care are unchanged on five.

Sturgeon said that while in recent weeks people may have taken comfort from the low levels of older and more vulnerable people contracting the virus, “that picture is also beginning to change”

The First Minister added: “It may well be that if we are to interrupt and break this growth we may need to do more over the next few weeks and this weekend will be critical in the assessment of how best to do that.

“I want to give the nation advance notice that the coming days are likely to see some hard but necessary decisions.

“If we want to avoid another full-scale lockdown, which all of us do, doing nothing almost certainly isn’t an option.”

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