Nicola Sturgeon has said that guiding Scotland safely through the rest of the coronavirus pandemic is her “number one priority” as she prepares to give her latest update on coronavirus restrictions.
The First Minister said she had been back at her desk after last week’s SNP victory in the Holyrood elections, consulting with clinical advisers about the “next steps as we gradually hope to return the country to something much more like normality”.
With coronavirus numbers having fallen, and the continued rollout of the vaccination programme, Sturgeon had previously indicated Scotland could move to Level 2 restrictions from Monday May 17.
However in Moray, which has the highest number of coronavirus cases in Scotland, public health bosses have said it is “entirely possible” that the area will not be able to see restrictions eased to this level.
NHS Grampian deputy director of public health Chris Littlejohn said the situation in the area “remains of great concern”.
Moving to Level 2 under the Scottish Government’s five-tier system would mean that friends and family could meet inside houses, with gatherings involving up to four people from no more than two households permitted.
Pubs and restaurants would also be allowed to serve alcohol indoors in Level 2, while cinemas, theatres, concert halls, music venues, comedy clubs, amusement arcades and bingo halls would all be allowed to reopen – although soft play centres, funfairs, bowling alleys, snooker and pool halls and nightclubs would still have to remain closed.
On Monday, Boris Johnson confirmed people in England will be able to hug loved ones, dine in restaurants and go on holiday abroad from May 17.
Earlier in the day, the national Covid-19 alert level was downgraded after a “consistent” fall in cases, hospital admissions and deaths, with the four chief medical officers of the UK, including Scotland’s Dr Gregor Smith, saying the threat level should be reduced thanks to the success of the vaccination programme and social distancing restrictions.
Speaking ahead of her latest coronavirus update, Sturgeon stressed the need to “remain vigilant” to ensure virus levels do not increase again.
And she said her Government was also beginning the task of “securing a fair and sustainable recovery from the pandemic”.
The First Minister stated: “Continuing the fight against Covid and guiding the country safely through the rest of the pandemic is my number one priority.
“Since the election, I have been back at my desk, consulting with clinical advisers on our next steps as we gradually hope to return the country to something much more like normality.
“Today we will outline those latest steps in lifting restrictions, while also making clear that we need to remain vigilant against any resurgence in Covid levels across Scotland.
“With the renewed mandate we have been given by the people of Scotland, I will this week also start to take forward our agenda, starting with our commitments for the first 100 days as we begin the task of securing a fair and sustainable recovery from the pandemic.
“That includes taking forward an NHS recovery plan, taking the first steps to establish a National Care Service, getting additional financial support to businesses and investment to recruit more teachers and classroom assistants.
“The people of Scotland voted for a serious Government for serious times – and with this re-elected SNP administration, in a historic fourth consecutive term in office, that is exactly what they will get.”