Covid Scotland: Nicola Sturgeon urged not to delay easing of restrictions as cases rise

Nicola Sturgeon has been urged not to delay the planned easing of Covid restrictions ahead of an update to the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday.

By Elsa Maishman
Monday, 14th March 2022, 12:59 pm
Updated Monday, 14th March 2022, 5:55 pm

Ms Sturgeon is expected to confirm whether the end to all legal restrictions on March 21 will go ahead, amid rising Covid cases and a 13-month high in hospitalisations.

Over 1,800 people are in hospital with Covid in Scotland, an increase of more than 100 since Friday. No data was released on Monday on case numbers, deaths or vaccinations, due to a technical issue faced by Public Health Scotland (PHS).

The Scottish Government has said decisions are kept under “continual review”, while chief medical officer Professor Sir Gregor Smith said on Monday he is keeping a “close eye” on rising levels of infection.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon during First Minster's Questions at the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood, Edinburgh. Picture date: Thursday March 10, 2022.

It comes as the UK Government announced an end to all remaining Covid restrictions on travel into the UK will end from Friday, including passenger locator forms and the requirement for unvaccinated people to be tested before entry.

UK transport secretary Grant Shapps said the changes would mean greater freedom “in time for Easter”.

The Scottish Conservatives warned ministers on Monday “not to backtrack” on plans for easing from March 21 previously set out, and to instead accept the risks of “living with Covid”.

“The First Minister must not use the rise in infection rates as an excuse to kick the can further down the road,” said Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary Dr Sandesh Gulhane said. “The last remaining Covid restrictions must end, as planned, next Monday.

“Of course, we must all remain vigilant and use common sense because Covid has not gone away – but the First Minister accepted last month that we have to learn to live with it.”

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Dr Gulhane added: “Businesses in Scotland have suffered hugely over the last two years, not least with the First Minister’s severe restrictions imposed in the wake of the Omicron wave, and they, and the Scottish public, deserve a return to normality.

“The Scottish people have acted with common sense throughout the pandemic and the public health strategy from now on must focus on personal responsibility, rather than government-imposed blanket restrictions.”

Scottish Labour also pushed for the relaxation of restrictions to go ahead, but called for contact tracing to continue and testing to remain free in an effort to support the NHS.

Party deputy leader Jackie Baillie said: “The continued progress towards some form of normality is to be welcomed after Scotland being under restrictions for so long.

“But while this progress is welcome, it is clear that we are not out of the woods yet. Covid cases are increasing and are stubbornly high and our NHS remains under extreme pressure.

“For too long, the SNP Government has turned its back on staff and patients as our NHS remains in crisis. This cannot continue. We need Test and Protect to continue to operate; testing to remain free and for anti-virals to quickly reach those who are immuno-suppressed in the coming months.

“Urgent action also needs to be taken to treat those with Long Covid as little has been done to resource the NHS to cope with the number of people affected. The SNP Government must do the right thing and ensure Scotland’s NHS is properly supported as we emerge from restrictions.”

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