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Scotland’s full return to normality now looks set to be delayed until late July, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has indicated.
A full review of protection levels for the country is due next week and had expected to consider whether Scotland could move down to level zero from June 28.
But in an address to the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday, the First Minister appeared to rule that option out after she said cases rose ‘fivefold’ in the past week alone, and are now five times higher than they were in early May.
Ms Sturgeon said: ‘I will confirm our decision to parliament next week following the review but given the current situation and the need to get more people fully vaccinated before we ease up further, it is reasonable, I think, to indicate now that it is unlikely that any part of the country will move down a level from the 28th of June.
‘Instead it is more likely we will opt to maintain restrictions for a further three weeks and use that time to vaccinate, with both doses, as many more people as possible.
‘Doing that will give us the best chance later in July of getting back on track and restoring the much greater normality that we all crave.’
Vaccinations are ‘changing the game’, she said, and while Covid was still spreading, fewer are ending up in hospital beds. Hospitalisations are double what they were in early May, meaning people were being discharged more quickly and spending less time requiring treatment than the earlier stages of the pandemic, she said.
Level zero allows more people to meet inside their homes, including overnight, and permits greater number of people from different households to gather indoors in places such as cafes, pubs and restaurants.
Level zero also allows greater numbers of people to attend weddings and would also herald the start of a ‘limited and phased return’ to office work, although people will be encouraged to work from home where possible.