Nicola Sturgeon suggests learning to live with Covid could mean face coverings for long term
Nicola Sturgeon has said Scotland will have to learn to live with Covid and make “adaptations to pre-pandemic life”.
In an interview with STV’s Scotland Tonight, the First Minister said this could include face coverings remaining necessary for some time to come.
The SNP leader’s comments to the broadcaster come ahead of this afternoon’s weekly update on the pandemic to MSPs.
There are reports Sturgeon could be set to relax some of the restrictions put in place over winter, with fans allowed back into sporting fixtures.
Events were restricted to 500 spectators on Boxing Day in Scotland.
The First Minister told Scotland Tonight her government wanted as much normality to return as possible.
She said: “Sometimes when you hear people talk about learning to live with Covid, what seems to be suggested is that one morning we’ll wake up and not have to worry about it anymore, and not have to do anything to try to contain and control it.
“That’s not what I mean when I say ‘learning to live with it’. Instead, we will have to ask ourselves what adaptations to pre-pandemic life – face coverings, for example – might be required in the longer-term to enable us to live with it with far fewer protective measures.”
“We are in a position where we all want to get to as much normality as possible. All of us, me included, really crave that,” Sturgeon added.
“But we need to recognise that this virus, although we hope Omicron is milder than previous variants, this virus still takes lives and it still causes significant health impacts for people.
“So we have got to treat it seriously and not underestimate the damage that it can do.”
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said the public needed “to see some light at the end of the tunnel” and called on the First Minister to produce a timetable.
He said: “People want reassurance that restrictions won’t stay in force for a moment longer than absolutely necessary.
“After almost two years of sacrifice, the public need to see a bold timetable from the Scottish Government that will enable us to live safely with Covid.”
Scottish Labour’s Health and Covid Recovery spokeswoman Jackie Baillie, said today's statement was “a chance to take a serious look at where we stand in suppressing this virus, and what the latest data is telling us”.
“We need to make sure any and all restrictions are rooted firmly in the evidence and backed up by proper financial support,” she said.
“We also need a real plan to protect health and social care, which have been pushed to breaking point due to staffing shortages. Hospitals up and down the country are struggling to cope, and the lack of social care packages are leaving vulnerable people stranded without support.”
Meanwhile, during the interview Sturgeon was also asked about a second independence referendum. She said she intended to do “everything that is within my power to enable” a vote before the end of 2023.
She said: “And we will set out exactly what that means in terms of the date of introduction of legislation when we've taken the detailed decisions around that but more importantly, well it's not more importantly because obviously enabling the referendum was important, but actually what I think is much more exciting as we come out of the pandemic, and certainly the acute phase of the pandemic, are the opportunities that come with Scotland being independent.”
Pamela Nash, chief executive of Scotland in Union, said the remarks were a “gross insult to the people of Scotland.”
She added: “Most people in Scotland do not support leaving the UK and an overwhelming majority do not believe there should be another referendum any time soon.
“Politicians should focus on what really matters to people and address the challenges facing our NHS, education and the climate, rather than re-opening a tired old debate and seeking a legal battle over the constitution."