Sturgeon: Social distancing could stay in place until Covid-19 vaccine found

Some form of coronavirus restrictions could remain in place until a vaccine is found to protect people from the deadly disease, Nicola Sturgeon has warned.

The First Minister said people should understand “some form of social distancing is going to be required, perhaps up to the point a vaccine is available”.

She also revealed a total of 915 people in Scotland have died after testing positive for coronavirus – a rise of 12 on Sunday’s total.

HEALTH Coronavirus Scotland
Coronavirus cases in Scotland (PA Graphics)

There are now 8,450 laboratory confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Scotland, up 263 in the last 24 hours.

Meanwhile, 169 patients are now in intensive care with coronavirus or coronavirus symptoms, a decrease of five on Sunday, with an overall total of 1,809 people in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19.

Speaking at her daily briefing from the Scottish Government’s HQ in Edinburgh, the First Minister said she will not rush to announce a lockdown exit strategy.

She said she will set out “some of the factors that will guide our thinking for the future” at the end of this week, but said she will not announce what measures will be lifted and when.

“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.

Scotland, like the rest of the UK, has already extended the lockdown period for at least another three weeks in a bid to curtail the spread of the virus.

Ms Sturgeon said: “I’m not yet in a position to give dates when things will start again and what order we might see things start to go back to normal.

“People should not be under the expectation that large-scale mass gatherings will be starting any time soon because we must make sure we are doing everything we can to continue to suppress this virus.”

She said there should be “the understanding that some form of social distancing is going to be required perhaps up to the point a vaccine is available”.

Ms Sturgeon said she was being “as frank and honest as possible”, adding: “We want to get a semblance of normality back into people’s lives for all sorts of reasons as quickly as possible, but we can not do that in a way that risks the resurgence of this virus.”

While she said that was “not good news” for sports fans, she told them: “It would be wrong of me to give false expectation right now about an early resumption of football matches or rugby matches or large-scale sporting events like that.”

Dr Gregor Smith, Scotland’s interim chief medical officer, said even if sporting events took place behind closed doors, fans could still be tempted to gather together to watch them.

“We need to be very careful and we need to be led by the science and the evidence,” he said.

He also urged anyone with possible cancer symptoms to seek medical help, after figures showed the number of referrals to the NHS for the disease had dropped by almost three quarters amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

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