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Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Covid in Scotland: No rule changes planned before next week

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Nicola Sturgeon has said she does not plan to make any changes to Scotland’s Covid restrictions before next week.

The first minister said she wanted to stick to the timetable under which new measures, that came into effect this week, will be reviewed next Tuesday.

Ms Sturgeon had indicated on Monday that questions over furlough funding meant she may need to decide within days whether to take tougher steps.

Boris Johnson has said support will be available in the future.

But the Scottish government is seeking clarification on whether the prime minister’s commitment means the furlough scheme would continue to fund 80% of wages.

The first minister was asked at her daily briefing if she would need to make decisions before next Tuesday if she did not receive that clarity.

She said she had decided that “we are going to stick, if we can, to our scheduled review period. That is probably, on balance, the best thing to do.

“If we do not get that commitment translated into practice, then clearly that has implications for the length of time that we would have access to the more generous furlough scheme.”

Ms Sturgeon said she was trying to “steer a sensible and rational path”.

graffiti

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And she added: “It is in nobody’s interests for public health decisions to be distorted by the need to effectively try to game a financial system.

“We should all have access to the same financial support.”

The first minister had said on Monday that she faced a “dilemma” over whether to “step harder on the brakes now” if more generous financial support was only going to be available while England was in lockdown.

Mr Johnson later told MPs that “if other parts of the UK decide to go into measures which require the furlough scheme, then of course that is available to them – that applies not just now but in the future”.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross insisted there was “no doubt” that furlough would protect Scottish jobs in the event of another lockdown.

Ms Sturgeon welcomed the commitment with a “degree of caution”.

“We have not yet had confirmation from the Treasury that continuation of furlough in Scotland beyond 2 December would be at the 80% level,” she said.

Testing

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The first minister also told her briefing on Tuesday that the rate of increase in coronavirus cases seemed to be slowing down in recent weeks.

She said the government would be assessing over the coming week whether there were signs of a sustained improvement.

“We need to be confident not just that the situation we face right now isn’t deteriorating, we also need to be confident that at current levels of intervention the situation is improving significantly enough,” she said.

“If we are not confident of that, it may be that we can’t move areas down a level, and it may also be that we have to move some areas up a level.

“While we hope this will not be the case, that analysis means we cannot rule out having to move some areas of the country to level four for a period.”

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This post courtesy of bbc-politics