Sturgeon: separate Scottish lockdown exit plan may be logical | World news

Nicola Sturgeon has said it would be “logical and sensible” for Scotland to diverge from the rest of the UK in terms of an exit strategy from lockdown where the evidence directs it.

The Scottish first minister issued what will be seen as a veiled criticism of the UK government’s warning that discussing an exit strategy at this stage would confuse critical health guidance. She promised to treat the Scottish public “as the grown-ups that you are”, and share “as much detail as I can” on plans for an eventual emergence from lockdown and future management of the coronavirus.

Speaking directly to the public at her daily briefing, she said: “The challenge we face is to find a balance that allows us to suppress and control the virus and and minimise absolutely the damage it can do, while also allowing life to go on, if not completely as normal, then at least in as normal a way as is possible.

“While we know that the current lockdown measures are essential, we also know that they bring serious consequences of their own and these may also be measured in lives lost and life changes curtailed.”

She added: “I want to stress again that the government will be as open as we can be. To be blunt, I will treat you, the public, as the grown-ups that you are and try to share the really difficult judgments and balances we will have to strike.”

The Labour leader, Keir Starmer, has previously called for more details to be disclosed about how the UK government plans to leave the lockdown, but earlier on Friday the Scottish secretary, Alister Jack, warned against confusing the public message. He told BBC Radio Scotland: “I would suggest that this is not the time to muddy the message by talking about exit strategies or getting into arguments about sectors or geography or demographies or anything else.”

Asked about Jack’s remarks, Sturgeon told reporters: “This virus doesn’t respect borders or boundaries, that is obvious … that is why the Scottish government has been working so carefully and collaboratively and closely to align our thinking and decision with the Welsh, UK and Northern Irish governments.

“But if the evidence and the science tells us that because we are all at different stages of the infection curve we might need to do things slightly differently, it would be astounding for any first minister to say that they would simply ignore that.”

World Health Organization (WHO) guidance on face masks has remained consistent during the coronavirus pandemic. It has stuck to the line that masks are for healthcare workers – not the public. 

“Wearing a medical mask is one of the prevention measures that can limit the spread of certain respiratory viral diseases, including Covid-19. However, the use of a mask alone is insufficient to provide an adequate level of protection, and other measures should also be adopted,” the WHO has stated.

There is no robust scientific evidence – in the form of trials – that ordinary masks block the virus from infecting people who wear them. There is also concerns the public will not understand how to use a mask properly, and may get infected if they come into contact with the virus when they take it off and then touch their faces.

Also underlying the WHO’s concerns is the shortage of high-quality protective masks for frontline healthcare workers.

Nevertheless, masks do have a role when used by people who are already infected. It is accepted that they can block transmission to other people. Given that many people with Covid-19 do not show any symptoms for the first days after they are infected, masks clearly have a potential role to play if everyone wears them.

 Sarah Boseley Health editor

Listing occasions so far where the UK-wide approach has included a slightly different approach for Scotland, she said: “We banned mass gatherings slightly earlier, we announced the closer of schools slightly earlier, the lockdown came at the same time for the UK but Scotland was slightly earlier in the infection curve at that point, and we’ve taken a slightly tougher line on business closure, construction being an example.”

She added that divergence should not be for “silly political considerations”, but guided by science. “Where the evidence, with judgment applied to it, drives us in slightly different direction, as long as that’s for a good sound reason and not for some silly political consideration that has no place in these discussions, then that is logical and sensible.”

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