NICOLA Sturgeon is under pressure to set out “a clear timetable for exiting restrictions” when she updates MSPs on her strategy for Scotland today.
Yesterday, Boris Johnson confirmed all legal restrictions will end in England on July 19 – but warned more deaths are to be expected when rules are lifted.
The First Minster is expected to confirm that all parts of Scotland will move to level 0 on July 19, meaning social distancing rules will end – before Scotland is placed ”beyond level 0″ on August 9.
Health Secretary Humza Yousaf suggested on Sunday that the timetable for easing rules remains on track, stressing Scotland appears to be “past the worst” of a surge in positive cases.
But Scottish Labour yesterday accused the Scottish Government of having “lost control of the pandemic” amid demands for SNP ministers to diverge from advice from independent clinical experts and cut the interval in jag doses from eight to four weeks.
The party has pointed to World Health Organisation advice stating the time between doses could be cut to four weeks – but the Joint Committee on Vaccines and Immunisations (JCVI), which both the UK and Scottish governments have followed advice from throughout the pandemic, have urged that the interval should be eight weeks.
Labour has also appealed for rapid improvements are made to the Test and Protect system after a surge in cases put strain on contact tracers – with more officials hired and procedures scaled back.
Labour’s health spokesperson, Jackie Baillie, said: “The SNP has lost control of the pandemic and our exit from lockdown hangs in the balance.
“We need immediate action that meets the scale of the crisis before us.
“That’s why Scottish Labour is calling for the time between vaccine doses to be cut to four weeks, in line with the WHO’s advice, to speed up the vaccine roll-out.”
Yesterday, the Prime Minister insisted there was “no obvious date for unlocking” but warned “we are going to see more hospitalisations and more deaths from Covid” as he confirmed a full removal of rules in England from next Monday.
Mr Johnson said that although the legal restriction will be ended requiring people in England to wear masks, the UK Government is recommending people cover their face in “enclosed spaces” where close contact cannot be avoided, “such as public transport”.
Ms Sturgeon is expected to keep the legal restriction for face masks in certain situations to remain in place for longer.
England’s chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, yesterday stressed there was “extremely wide agreement” from clinical experts that there will be “an exit wave” when restrictions are ended.
He added: “Going very slowly though this step is really essential and this again is an overwhelming view of the scientific people who have looked at this.”
Professor Whitty added that there was “less agreement” from the scientific community on an ideal date for removing restrictions.
He added: “There is no such thing as an ideal date. All the possible dates have downsides.
“If we go at this point in time, we go at a point when there are still some people being vaccinated but we are not going at a point when schools are just coming back and we’re not going into autumn and winter.”
Speaking ahead of Ms Sturgeon’s announcement, Scottish Conservative leader, Douglas Ross, warned that “people now expect a steady return to normality” in Scotland.
He added: “The SNP cannot stall Scotland’s progress any longer. We have to keep moving forward and that means moving Scotland to level 0 next week.
“The public shouldn’t be punished for the SNP’s failures to boost the vaccine rollout pace and deliver a fully-functioning Test and Protect system.
“If Tuesday’s statement does not deliver a plan of action for tackling the virus and a clear timetable for exiting restrictions, Nicola Sturgeon risks losing public buy-in.
“People are fed up with the uncertainty and the SNP’s mixed messages. As I told the First Minister on Monday morning, this is a crunch moment for thousands of businesses who need certainty and support.”