NICOLA Sturgeon has stressed that Scotland was still right to hold on before starting to lift the lockdown – despite the infection rate not reducing since Boris Johnson announced he was relaxing rules south of the Border. 

The First Minister told her daily press briefing that although the R number, the number of people each infected person transfers the virus to, has remained static, she had “much more confidence” that it has remained below one. 

Ms Sturgeon said that the “range of the R number hasn’t changed in Scotland” and is still thought to be between 0.7 and one. 

She added: “We still think it could be slightly above the rest of the UK.” 

READ MORE: Scotland's older and more unhealthy population linked to higher virus rate

When the Prime Minister announced that he was to start lifting lockdown restrictions, in a move away from the rest of the UK, Ms Sturgeon stressed that Scotland’s R number being higher was reason for Scotland to work to a different timescale. 

Speaking at the time, she said that “we are not yet confident that the all-important R number is comfortably below one.” 

She added: “Indeed, we think it could still be hovering around 1 just now - which means that any significant easing up of restrictions at this stage would be very, very risky indeed.” 

But despite the R number not shifting from its 0.7 to one estimate, the Scottish Government says it is now confident that it will remain low enough to start lifting restrictions from 28 May – but all is dependent on the R number remaining low until then. 

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Nicola Sturgeon warns 'good judgement' needed or lives of loved ones at risk

At the start of the lockdown, Scottish Government officials believed the infection rate was between four and six. 

Ms Sturgeon said: “What we have much more confidence now in, is that it has been below one, we still don’t know exactly how much below one, for at least three weeks.  

“Some of the supplementary indicators that we look at – case numbers, hospital admissions and ICU admissions and deaths, they are also showing a sustained and significant reduction.  

“That is what gives us confidence now to make the careful, gradual steps forward that we set out yesterday.” 

She added: “I still think it would have been wrong for us to do that two weeks ago because we didn’t have that confidence. Now, we are also in the position where we are able to say next week as we ease these restrictions, we will be able to start the test, trace and isolate. 

“It’s really important that we take these decisions in the way, sequence and on the timescale that is right for Scotland.” 

The First Minister says that other measures are being taken into account, other than the R number, to ascertain when it is safe to start lifting restrictions. 

Data from Health Protection Scotland shows that new cases have now stabilised since April 13. 

HeraldScotland:

Weekly data from the National Records of Scotland also shows that the number of deaths have declined over recent weeks. 

HeraldScotland:

Hospital admissions due to Covid-19 have also reduced and stayed at a low level. 

HeraldScotland:

Scotland’s national clinical director, Professor Jason Leith, has warned about putting “all the emphasis” on the R number. 

He added that “Wednesday’s National Records of Scotland data was hugely important in that decision-making" where officials “had week three of our sustained reduction”. 

He said: “ICU numbers are at their lowest level for weeks and three weeks or mortality reduction, along with that continued estimate of R, gave the advisors more confidence to be able to advise the First Minister and others that now was the time to start thinking about that.”