Sturgeon: Half-measures against coronavirus don’t work

The First Minister defended the latest restrictions as 'tough but necessary' in the fight against Covid.

The First Minister has said “half-measures often don’t work” against coronavirus as she defended her government’s latest restrictions.

Nicola Sturgeon said recent measures intended to wrestle back control of the Covid-19 epidemic in Scotland are “tough but necessary”.

Private indoor gatherings between households have been banned in Scotland since September 23.

More recently, hospitality venues have been slapped with a ban on serving alcohol inside and a 6pm curfew for indoor premises.

And in five health board areas in central Scotland – Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Lanarkshire, Lothian, Ayrshire and Arran and Forth Valley – pubs and restaurants have been shut altogether until at least October 25.

It comes as the country recorded 1297 Covid cases overnight – the highest daily total on record – and seven more deaths of patients with the virus, with hospital admissions rising by 40 to more than 500.

Of the new infections, nearly three quarters (941 cases) are concentrated in the Greater Glasgow, Lanarkshire and Lothian regions.

The harsh new regulations to curb the virus are “firmly rooted in scientific advice”, the First Minister said at Tuesday’s daily coronavirus briefing.

She continued: “This can’t be seen as a contest between health and the economy.

“Keeping people safe from a potentially deadly virus is a prerequisite of a strong economy and of course in turn, a strong economy is vital for our health and wellbeing.

“These are not opposing objectives, even if it sometimes feels like they are – they are instead two sides of the same coin.”

It follows the publication of guidance by the UK Government’s scientific advisory body SAGE on Monday, which revealed advisers had told ministers on September 21 that a short “circuit break” lockdown should be brought in to stem the tide of coronavirus cases.

SAGE also suggested measures like a ban on private gatherings between households; the closure of hospitality businesses, gyms and personal retail like hairdressers; advice to work from home for all that can; and for all university and college teaching to be done online.

The following day, Sturgeon announced the ban on indoor household gatherings – already in place in parts of the west of Scotland – would be extended nationwide, which then came into force on September 23.

She also joined Boris Johnson in introducing a 10pm curfew for all pubs and restaurants.

The Prime Minister has been criticised for only implementing one SAGE recommendation following the September 21 meeting – switching the UK Government’s advice to people in England to work from home if they can.

That has been the Scottish Government’s guidance to Scottish workers throughout the pandemic.

The First Minister acknowledged she had also not implemented SAGE’s suggestions in full, and said she had to strike a balance between public health and the economy.

She insisted she does not yet believe the virus is “out of control” in Scotland but that the country is at “a very perilous point in this journey”.

Chief medical officer Dr Gregor Smith added Scotland is “nowhere near” the scale of spread of Covid-19 seen in March but maintained action is now needed to prevent a return to those levels.

Sturgeon added: “Against this virus we sometimes have to be tough.

“Half-measures often don’t work. What you find is that they will still inflict economic pain and harm but they won’t have the required public health impact.

“So these are the tough but necessary restrictions that we’re asking everyone to abide by as we try to make sure the virus does not run out of control.

“In return, the government will continue to strengthen Test and Protect, we will do all we can to encourage and support people to comply with the advice, including the self-isolation advice…

“And we will work with businesses to ensure they can trade safely with as much normality as is possible during a pandemic.”

She said her government is now seeking to combine all of these objectives into a new “strategic framework to guide us through the next phase of the pandemic”, which will be debated by MSPs after the October recess.

Joining the FM and Dr Smith at the briefing, social security secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville went into further detail about a scheme to support people self-isolating.

The new £500 benefit payment is aimed at ensuring those on low incomes will be able to self-isolate without suffering financially.

The fund, which is being operated by local authorities, opened for applications on Monday, with payments able to be backdated to September 28 for those previously asked to self-isolate.

Somerville said: “It’s vital that we stop the chain of transmission by complying with the requirement to self-isolate.”

She also announced a new service to help those who are self-isolating with a focus on those most in need of support, such as the elderly, people who are shielding and those from poorer households.

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