Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: First Minister's speech 2 July 2020

Statement given by the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at the media briefing in St Andrew's House, Edinburgh on Thursday 2 July.

This document is part of a collection

Good afternoon and thank you for joining us.

I have a lot of information to give you today, so please bear with me if I take a bit more time than usual. I’ll start with the usual update on the statistics.

An additional five positive cases were confirmed yesterday - that takes the total now in Scotland to 18,264.

A total of 785 patients are currently in hospital with the virus, either confirmed or suspected. That is no change from yesterday, but it includes a reduction of 7 in the number of confirmed cases.

A total of nine people last night were in intensive care with confirmed or suspected Covid 19. That is eight fewer than yesterday.

Since 5 March, a total of 4,080 patients who had tested positive for Covid-19 have been able to leave hospital.

And in the past 24 hours, one death was registered of a patient confirmed through a test as having Covid-19. That takes the total number of deaths in Scotland, under that measurement, to 2,487.

I want once again today to send my deepest condolences to everyone who has lost a loved one as a result of this virus.

And my thanks go as always to everyone working hard to help us through this crisis.

The next part of my update today relates to the changes to our guidelines which will come into force over this weekend.

Several of the changes I announced last week have now happened. On Monday, most shops were able to reopen, along with many workplaces.

From the evidence I have seen, people have responded to these changes responsibly - so thank you.

Today, I am able to confirm the further changes which will take place tomorrow and next Monday.

That decision is informed by our current estimate of the R number, which remains below 1 in a range of 0.6 - 0.8; and also our estimate of the number of people currently infectious and capable of transmitting the virus to others. As of last Friday, we estimate that number had fallen to 1,500.

The continued low prevalence of the virus means that we can proceed with changes planned for tomorrow.

This means that outdoor hospitality, such as pavement cafes and beer gardens, can re-open from Monday 6 July.  And although tourism will not open fully until 15 July, self-contained holiday accommodation – for example holiday cottages, lodges or caravans with no shared facilities - can reopen from tomorrow.

We will also from tomorrow, with one important exception that I will come on to shortly, lift the guidance advising people to travel no more than five miles for leisure purposes.

I know that many of you will be keen to travel a bit further and look forward to going to other parts of our beautiful country. In doing that, however, please behave responsibly and follow all public health advice rigorously . Be sensitive to those living in our rural communities. If you don’t take appropriate care, you risk taking the virus to others. Please do not do that.

Let me turn to the exception I referred to a moment ago.

You will recall that yesterday we reported on an outbreak of the virus in Annan and Gretna.

Professor Leitch will say a bit more shortly .

So far, 10 positive cases have been identified and a significant number of contacts are being traced and tested.  As a precaution, staff at three workplaces with connections to those cases are also being tested today and mobile testing units have been deployed. 

We are very hopeful that this outbreak will be contained - and I should stress there is no evidence at this stage to suggest otherwise. But until contact tracing and testing has been completed, we cannot be absolutely sure of that. 

That means we must act on a precautionary basis.

As a result, the advice and guidance to people in the areas of Annan, Gretna, Dumfries, Lockerbie, Langholm and Canonbie is to continue to follow the five mile travel restriction over the weekend until the testing and contact tracing process has been completed and we are able to assess if the outbreak has indeed been contained.  We will publish the particular postcodes that this guidance applies to on social media later. And we will provide a further update on Monday.

If you have plans to travel into these areas over the weekend to visit or stay, you should follow the travel advice while there. If you run a business in these areas, including at the Gretna Gateway Outlet Village, please be extra vigilant about hygiene and physical distancing. In addition, care homes in those five areas will unfortunately not be able to welcome visitors this weekend.

And generally, to people in these areas - until we conclude the management of this outbreak, please assume there is a higher risk of infection just now and take particular care to follow all public health advice.

And remember, I’m sorry about this, the five mile limit means you should not travel to pubs south of the border this weekend.  

I know this will not be welcome news for people in these areas, and I’m sorry about that. But this outbreak is sharply reminding us just how highly infectious COVID is, and how vital it is that we proceed with care and caution.

Let me turn next to the issue of physical distancing and whether we can, in some circumstances, relax the 2 metre rule. We are publishing today the advice on physical distancing that the Government has received from our scientific advisory group.

This advice makes clear that the science on physical distancing has not changed. As the distance between people decreases, the risk of transmitting Covid 19 increases.

To quote the advice directly - ‘there is increased risk somewhere between 2 and 10 fold in reducing from 2 metres to 1 metre’.

However, it also notes that as the number of infected individuals falls, there is less chance of any of us coming into contact with someone who has the virus, and so absolute risk is lower. It also notes that risk can be mitigated through other measures.

Overall, the Advisory Group concludes that ‘it is ultimately a matter of policy as to what physical distance is tolerated in different environments’. Taking all of this into account, the Scottish Government has reached the following conclusions.

Firstly, our general advice will remain unchanged. We will continue to advise that as far as possible you should remain 2 metres away from people in other households.

Secondly, 2 metres will remain the benchmark for our test and protect system.

That means by staying at least 2 metres away from other people, you don’t just reduce your chance of getting Covid and of transmitting it – you also reduce your chance of being traced as a contact and being asked to self-isolate.

In addition, 2 metre distancing is a particularly important guideline for anyone in a high-risk group, for example if you are over 70 or have an underlying health condition.

So all of that will not change.

However, we recognise that there are different harms that we must balance as best we can. While sticking to 2 metres has clear benefits, it also has serious economic implications - and an adverse economic impact can in turn have an effect on people’s health.

For those reasons, when we enter phase 3 of the route map, hopefully at the end of next week, we will allow exemptions for specific sectors where agreed mitigations must be put in place.

The exemptions will allow premises in relevant sectors, if they so choose, to operate with a 1 metre distance on the condition that agreed mitigations are implemented.

To be clear - these will be exceptions. The general rule – in law – will continue to be that that businesses and services must take all reasonable measures to ensure that 2 metre distancing is maintained. 

Ahead of phase 3, we will work with key sectors - initially that will be hospitality, retail and public transport - to agree the mitigations that will be required, and to finalise detailed guidance. In doing that we will also work closely with trade unions.

The guidance will be different for different sectors.  Clearly the mitigations for a restaurant or bar will be different to those for a hairdresser.

For illustrative purposes and to allow businesses to start to plan, we are publishing today the kinds of mitigations that might be required in each sector.

However in general terms, these might include improved ventilation; perspex screens; regulation of customer flow and seating plans that reduce transmission risk.

For hospitality and possibly others, mitigation will also include the collection of names and addresses of customers, to help with contact tracing when that is necessary.

And we will also insist on clear customer information to help inform the judgments we all make as individuals about the risks we are prepared to take.

So if a business decides to operate at less than 2 metres, they should provide clear signage informing their customers that they are entering a 1 metre zone.

We hope to have guidance agreed for the start of phase 3 and ahead of the opening of tourism and hospitality from 15 July.

However, in the meantime the current rules apply - that means, for example, that beer gardens opening on Monday must initially comply with the 2 metre rule.

In my view, this represents a balanced and proportionate approach to what is a genuinely difficult issue. It allows businesses to cater for more customers - and we know that for some that will be the difference between staying in business or closing.

However, it also continues to minimise risk - which, for some individuals, and with no exaggeration, could be the difference between life and death.

Obviously, if infection levels were to rise again, we reserve the right to re-impose a strict 2 metre rule, either nationally or locally, and to take other public health measures that are necessary to keep us safe.

Conversely, though, if we continue to make progress, we may be able to consider a more general relaxation in later phases.

The issue of physical distancing is directly relevant to the next issue I want to talk about, which is face coverings.

We have been recommending the use of face coverings for some time now, and it is already mandatory on public transport.

I can confirm today that from the expected start of phase 3 - 10 July - wearing face coverings will also be mandatory in shops.

As with public transport, there will be some exemptions - for children under 5 and people with certain medical conditions. But for everyone else, face coverings will be mandatory.

This is not a decision we have taken lightly. It has taken some time to reach this decision.

But as we all start to interact more, it’s vital that we take all reasonable steps to reduce risk and we know that face coverings can help reduce the risk of transmission indoors.

Also in shops, as on public transport, contact tracing is more difficult because we usually don’t know the people that we have been contact with. So a face covering provides an additional layer of protection. It is therefore for all of these reasons, that face coverings in shops will be compulsory from the end of next week. 

But please do not wait until then - get into the habit now.  This is an important way for all of us to help protect each other and to display that sense of solidarity that has helped the country so well over these past months

The final issue I want to talk about relates to children and young people. In a few moments, the Chief Medical Officer will provide important information for some of the children who are currently shielding.

I want to say directly to any of you who are watching, I know how difficult, even more difficult than for others this last period has been for you. I want to thank you for your patience and for complying with all of these rules.

The advice I am about to give unfortunately does not apply to children who are shielding, but it does apply to other children and young people.

We want to help children enjoy the summer holidays a bit more. We also know that the clinical risks of Covid for children – particularly for younger children – appear to be relatively low, although we will never be complacent about that.

And we know that while there are restrictions on the number of households we can meet, families might find it difficult to balance the social needs of children and adults. Understandably, you don’t all want to see the same people every day 

Bearing that in mind, I am announcing today two further changes to our rules to allow for a bit more interaction between young people. These changes will both apply from tomorrow.

For children who are 11 years old or under, we are removing the requirement for you to physically distance with other people when you are outdoors.

This will enable you to play more normally with friends, which I hope you will enjoy. I’m sure this move will also be appreciated by your parents and carers.  

However other rules will remain the same - you should continue to meet in groups of 8 or less, and to meet no more than 2 other households at a time. Adults who are with you should continue to observe physical distancing and physical distancing, even for you as children, is still advised indoors.

Our guidance is different for young people aged 12 to 17. We are not yet relaxing the physical distancing rule for you - I’ll say more about that shortly.

But we know that you don’t want to be limited by who your parents meet - you want to have your own lives and meet your own friends. 

So when you meet other people, we are still asking you to do that outdoors and you should still stick to a limit of 8 people - from no more than three households - at any one time.

However, we will lift the limit on the number of those meetings you can have in any one day.  That means that you can meet different groups of friends at different times of day.  And it also means that you won’t be prevented from meeting your friends, just because your parents or carers or your brother or sister happen to be meeting their friends.

As I said, for now, we are asking older children to still keep 2 metres distant from people in other households, even outdoors

I know that the advice we’ve published today suggests that this is less important for young people - so we hope this will change in the weeks to come - but initially and for your safety, we want to act cautiously.

These changes are careful but important steps that I hope will make life easier and a little bit more fun for children and young people.

I hope next week to set out more changes – not simply for children, but for adults as well – in how households can meet, interact and play. I also hope to confirm at that stage that organised outdoor contact sports for children can resume from 13 July.

However, I hope that these changes do allow children a bit more freedom in meeting up with friends, and allow you to make a bit more of your holidays, even if, as will probably be the case in Scotland, it is raining for much of the time.

Lastly, I also hope to give more clarity next week about when places of worship may be able to re-open for communal prayer.

I had a very constructive discussion yesterday with Scotland’s main faith groups and we will be engaging with them more in the days ahead. I know how committed they all are to the safety of their congregations - and I want to give an assurance of the Scottish Government’s desire to see people of faith able to gather together for prayer and worship again as soon as possible.

As is obvious from that final section of my update, some rules will become more targeted as we move out of lockdown, and therefore unfortunately a bit more complicated.

If you are in any doubt at all about the changes I’ve just confirmed, please go to the Scottish Government website. Our routemap sets out clearly what changes will apply and when, and we are also publishing an update today relevant to the announcements  I’ve just made.

But although specific roles and guidance are changing, a very basic principle remains.

It is only because so many of us have stuck to the rules so far, that we are able to take these steps out of lockdown.

And only if we continue to stick to the rules will we be able to drive the virus down further, and live less restricted lives in the weeks and months ahead.

For more businesses to reopen, for public services to get back to normal, for more of us to be able to meet indoors, for our children to go back to school full-time – all of those collective benefits depend on the decisions we make as individuals now and in the days and weeks to come.

So please, take advantage of the fact that some rules are changing. Get out and about a bit more if you can, and support local businesses if you can.

But always be aware, as we see in Dumfries and Galloway right now, that the virus has not gone away. It is highly infectious, it is highly dangerous, and new cases are still being reported every day. And as, outbreaks are likely.

So please at all times remember our key guidance – the FACTS.

Face coverings should be worn in enclosed spaces – they are already mandatory on public transport, and will be mandatory in shops from next week.

Avoid crowded areas.

Clean your hands regularly and thoroughly, and clean any hard surfaces that you touch.

Two metre distancing remains the clear advice.

Self-isolate, and book a test immediately, if you have symptoms of COVID - a new cough; a fever or a loss of, or change in, your sense of taste or smell.

You can book a test at or by phoning 0800 028 2816. Please don’t wait to do that, as soon as you experience any of the symptoms then book a test.

If we all follow this advice rigorously and stick to it to the letter, then we will stay safe, protect others and will save lives.

Back to top