Lockdown exit strategy will not be rushed, says Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon has said she will not rush to announce a lockdown exit strategy as she revealed another 12 coronavirus deaths in Scotland.

A total of 915 patients have died in Scotland after testing positive for coronavirus, up from 903 on Sunday, the First Minister said.

Ms Sturgeon said 8,450 people have now tested positive for the virus in Scotland, up 263 from 8,187 the day before.

There are 169 people in intensive care with coronavirus or coronavirus symptoms, a decrease of five on Sunday, she added, and 1,809 people are in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19.

“Towards the end of this week I will set out some of the factors that will guide our thinking for the future,” the First Minister said.

But the “initial version of this work” will not set out what measures will be lifted and when, she said.

Ms Sturgeon added: “We are simply not yet in position to take those decisions in a properly informed way and I will not rush to do anything that could risk a resurgence of this virus because to do that would risk overwhelming the national health service and it would put many more lives at risk.”

She said the Scottish Government will set out its objective to “continue to suppress the virus while considering how even we can even gradually restore a semblance of normality to everyday life”.

But some restrictions on everyday life in the from of social distancing will continue for “a while to come”, she said.

Ms Sturgeon also urged people struggling to access food during the outbreak to ask for help.

She said: “Help is available. Please ask for support if you need it.”

The First Minister said for those in the shielded group – around 150,000 people in Scotland – more than 41,000 have had essentials delivered.

She said those who have signed up to the text message service for this in the past week may not yet have had their first delivery but will do shortly.

Ms Sturgeon added: “If you can’t access food for whatever reason, be that because you are shielding, because you are self isolating, or you might find yourself unable to afford food for your family, contact the national helpline.

“Nobody should have to worry about access to food.”

Scotland’s deputy chief medical officer Dr Gregor Smith stressed the NHS is open to treat all patients, not just those with Covid-19, as he said urgent referrals for suspected cancer are down by almost three-quarters on the weekly average.

He said: “There’s strong evidence that a reduction in people coming forward to seek help has led to lower numbers of urgent referrals for suspected cancer.

“This is seen not just in Scotland but appears to be a pattern in other parts of the UK, too.”

He added: “GPs are telling me that they are seeing much fewer people coming forward with these types of symptoms and signs.

“There’s been a 72% reduction in urgent suspected cancer referrals compared to the weekly average.

“It leaves me worried that there are people out there that are not seeking help from their GP when they might need it.”

Dr Smith urged people not to ignore signs and to seek advice as they would have done before the outbreak.

Highlighting that attendance at accident and emergency departments is down 54% on the three-year average, he said: “If it was urgent before Covid-19 it remains urgent now.

“Please don’t delay unnecessarily, your NHS remains here for you, please seek help and attention when you need it.”