At the daily government briefing the First Minister gave a “blunt” message to those who had flocked to beaches, beauty spots and parks as the phase one measures on easing lockdown kicked in on Friday.
While she said she was proud “of the vast majority” who had stuck to the new guidelines, which allowed people from two different households to meet outdoors for the first time in ten weeks, she criticised those who had flouted the rules.
And she warned some of the lockdown guidance could be enshrined in law if the breaches continue. “It's worth being clear, in fact I have a duty to be clear with you, that if there is continued evidence of even a minority not abiding by these guidelines and travelling unnecessarily, if people meet up in larger groups or if they're making journeys which risk spreading this virus, we will have to put these restrictions on group size and travel distance into law,” she said.
“We won't hesitate to do that if we think it's necessary for the collective safety and wellbeing of the population.”
Ms Sturgeon said she understood people’s frustrations with her cautious approach, but added: “I will always err on the side of caution. If we move too quickly and without due care and attention we risk the statistics going in the wrong direction.
“I can stand here and tell you what I want you to do and the reasons I want you to do it, we can put things in law which helps with enforcement, but ultimately we will succeed or fail here by the strength of our collective action and so far we are succeeding. We are succeeding in driving down this infection but it’s still out there.”
She added: “Until this weekend I didn’t know anybody personally, within my own family or friend or close colleague network, to the best of my knowledge, who had had this virus ina significant way. That changed this weekend. Why am I telling you that? Because it’s still there. Even with these numbers going down there are still people being tested positive for this virus. If we want to stop that we must, must, must stick to these guidelines. Together we will continue to make progress.”
While the First Minister said that many people had “long-awaited reunions” with family and friends over the weekend it was “clear that not everyone stuck to the rules.
“I’m told by the police that on Saturday alone there were 797 dispersals and that is people being moved on for not complying with the rules. To give some content to that, that 797 is five times higher than the figure the previous Saturday.
“And there were clearly cases where, despite the guidance we have issued, people were driving more than five miles to beauty spots. In some cases, people were staying overnight in tents, caravans or motorhomes.
“Some of the early statistics we have from Transport Scotland are especially concerning. Overall, transport yesterday was 70% up from the previous Sunday. Transport on Saturday was 60% up on the week before. In some places - like Loch Lomond and Glencoe for example - the increase was even more dramatic.
“On Saturday, on the A82 by Loch Lomond, traffic was around three times higher than the previous Saturday. We saw a similar picture around Glencoe. I’m going to be blunt here - it is very hard to see how all of that can have been caused by local residents, or by people travelling a reasonable distance to meet loved ones. So we will be considering all of this as we continue to assess the impact of the Phase 1 changes.”
She added: “The reason I’m stressing all of this - the real danger we still face - is not because I want to be imposing these restrictions but it is because the progress we have made so far in tackling Covid-19 is not guaranteed and it is not irreversible. Cases could increase again, it won’t take too much for that to happen, rather than continuing to decrease. And if that happens then that will result in more loss of life.
“And if all of that happens restrictions will have to be reimposed, rather than being relaxed. None of us want that. But the only way of avoiding it, is for all of us to comply with the rules.”
Asked how quickly restrictions might be reimposed, she said: “There isn’t really any excuse for people not knowing what they’re meant to be doing and not doing, the advice is there, it’s pretty straightforward.
“We will continue to assess it and if it needs to be done more quickly than the next review date, then we will do that. I don’t want to have to do that, I’d rather continue to give people more flexibility, but the priority for me is that we continue to get on top of, and stay on top of this virus.
“I hope we don’t have to go back the way but if we see an increase in daily infections, an increase in the R number, and an increase again in some of the supplementary measures such as hospital admissions, we would have to consider very carefully reimposing restrictions. I don’t want people to think that’s inevitable.”
She urged people to read the guidance on the government website, and added: “Stay at home continues to be the right message, it’s what we continue to ask people to do for the majority of time.
“I also know that the vast majority of people stuck to the rules when having those reunions and I want to thank you sincerely for that – you stayed outdoors in small groups, and you stayed more than 2m away from other households. So again my thanks to you for that.”
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