No further changes will be made to coronavirus restrictions in Scotland this week despite evidence the virus is in decline, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
East Lothian moved from Level 3 to Level 2 of the Scottish Government’s five-tier system on Tuesday morning but the First Minister told MSPs in the Scottish Parliament this will be the only change.
The majority of Scots remain in the first of three weeks of strict measures that have closed all non-essential shops and prevented travel to other areas.
Ms Sturgeon told MSPs that 41 deaths and 771 positive tests have been recorded in the past 24 hours.
She said restrictions “are having an impact” and infection numbers have “stabilised”.
“We now have grounds for cautious optimism that numbers may be declining,” she said.
Hospital and ICU admissions could also be falling, she said, though she stressed these numbers can “fluctuate on a day-to-day basis”.
The R number – the average number of people each person with Covid-19 goes on to infect – is now estimated at between 0.8 and 1.
While she said the national picture is “positive”, there are some regional variations, adding this is why 11 local authorities areas were placed under the toughest Level 4 restrictions last week.
These areas will all remain in Level 4 until December 11, Ms Sturgeon confirmed.
The First Minister added it is hoped ministers from across the UK can agree a “common framework” for Christmas restrictions at a meeting on Tuesday afternoon.
She said some details could differ – such as on the definition of a household – to “reflect the different circumstances in each nation”.
“I know everyone has a desire to see loved ones over the festive period,” she said.
“However, there is also a very real and a very legitimate anxiety that doing so could put those we love at risk, set back our progress as a country and result in unnecessary deaths and suffering.”
She said the arrangements for the festive period will “seek to balance those concerns”.
The First Minister added: “Any easing of restrictions will be temporary, it will be limited and it will be accompanied by advice on the precautions we should all take to minimise risk.”
Outlining the current measures in place across the country, Ms Sturgeon said while both Dumfries and Galloway and Argyll and Bute will remain in Level 2, falling prevalence in these areas could result in them being moved to Level 1 in the “coming weeks”.
Cases have been rising in both Aberdeenshire and Aberdeen City, the First Minister said, but added these were attributed “in a large part” to specific outbreaks that are being managed.
As a result, she said there is no need for restrictions there to be increased from the current Level 2 status.
Meanwhile, Clackmannanshire and Perth and Kinross are being monitored carefully “given recent increases in these areas”.
The First Minister said Midlothian case numbers have risen from 61 new cases per 100,000 to just over 97, with the “50% increase in one week” a “source of concern”.
As a “precaution”, she said Midlothian will remain in Level 3 “for a period”.