Nicola Sturgon pushes Scotland's Freedom Day back to July 19 and vows to drop all rules by August 9

Nicola’s never-ending lockdown? Sturgeon delays Scotland’s ‘Level 0’ Freedom Day until July 19 with social distancing, masks and WFH until AUTUMN – amid fears Boris will have to follow her lead again

  • The First Minister brought her country into line with England’s lockdown today with three-week delay
  •  Scotland was meant to have its own Level 0 Freedom Day on June 28, but now booked in for July 19
  • Rates of infection, particularly in heavily populated central belt, led to postponement today
  • Sturgeon hopes to remove all legally required Covid-19 restrictions by August 9, she told MSPs
  • But voluntary social distancing and wearing of masks could be requested afterwards into the autumn

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What’s allowed at Level 0 in Scotland? 

  • Gatherings of of up to eight adults from four households in homes – including overnight stays
  • Gatherings of up to 10 adults from four households in an indoor public place like a café, pub or restaurant
  • Gatherings of up to 15 adults from 15 households outdoors
  • No need for social distancing from friends and family at home
  • Travel permitted to other Level 0, and Level 1 and 2 areas
  • Travel allowed to England, Wales and Northern Ireland, subject to local travel rules
  • Up to 200 people can attend weddings and funerals
  • Working from home where possible remains 
  • Nightclubs and ‘adult entertainment venues’ have to stay closed 
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Nicola Sturgeon raised the prospect of some Scottish Covid restrictions remaining in place into the autumn today as she postponed ending the country’s lockdown by three weeks.    

The First Minister brought her country into line with England by pushing the country’s downgrading to Level Zero back to July 19 because of the spread of the Indian variant. 

She pledged to scrap all laws covering Covid restrictions by August 9 – but admitted that Scots might well be asked to voluntarily continue social distancing and wear masks in some situations after that date.

Scotland was meant to have its own relative Freedom Day on June 28, but rates of infection, particularly across the most populous central belt, led to today’s announcement.

Ms Sturgeon told Holyrood that life would feel ‘much, much less restrictive’ after August 9.

She also pledged to ‘encourage support’ for continued home working after workplaces are fully able to reopen. 

The setting of these dates is likely to raise pressure on Boris Johnson to set out what measures might remain in place after England’s Freedom Day on July 19.

Ministers are yet to set out what mitigations like social distancing and mask wearing may remain in place, with Michael Gove leading an ongoing review.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross asked the First Minister about other mitigations which would be required beyond August 9.

She said there may still be advice around physical distancing, even if it was not a legal requirement.

Ms Sturgeon said: ‘If you’re with somebody who’s not fully vaccinated, if you’re with somebody more vulnerable, if you’re in a place where the ventilation is not particularly good, it would make sense to continue to pay attention to a safe distance to people that are not in your close contact group.’  

The latest coronavirus development came as: 

  • Mr Hancock said the Government is ‘on track’ for the July 19 easing of restrictions. 
  • The Health Secretary said there will be a ‘very significant’ flu vaccination drive this winter aimed at protecting the NHS because ministers are ‘worried’ people’s natural immunity will be lower after 18 months of lockdowns. 
  • The Office for National Statistics said a total of 84 deaths registered in England and Wales in the week ending June 11 mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate, down 14 per cent on the previous week. 
  • The ONS said a total of 153,630 deaths have now occurred in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate. 
  • Boris Johnson ‘re-emphasised the Government’s determination to ensure the road map is irreversible’ during a meeting with his Cabinet on Tuesday, Downing Street said. 
The First Minister brought her country into line with England by pushing the country's downgrading to Level Zero back several weeks because of the spread of the Indian variant.

The First Minister brought her country into line with England by pushing the country’s downgrading to Level Zero back several weeks because of the spread of the Indian variant.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross asked the First Minister about other mitigations which would be required beyond August 9.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross asked the First Minister about other mitigations which would be required beyond August 9.

Covid cases in Cornwall have quadrupled in a fortnight… but health chief insists G7 meeting was NOT to blame 

The G7 summit is not to blame for spiralling Covid cases in Cornwall, the county’s health chief said today.

Rachel Wigglesworth, the region’s director of public health, argued infections were already increasing before the three-day summit took place because of May’s easing of restrictions.

Leaders of the UK, US, Canada, Japan, France, Germany and Italy descended on the region between June 11 and 13, along with their teams, security staff, journalists and protesters.

A handful of hotels, cafes and bars in the surrounding area were forced to shut after summit because of Covid outbreaks.

And Cornwall’s Covid infection rate has also quadrupled in size in the past week, the Government’s own data shows.

A local MP said the link between the summit and the ‘tsunami’ of infections was ‘undeniable’.

But No10 played down the link yesterday, insisting the rise in cases was down to the relaxation of restrictions on May 17.

Ms Wigglesworth also denied the G7 was to blame in an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

 

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Speaking to MSPs in Holyrood today, the First Minister said: ‘Our assessment – on balance and assuming we meet the necessary conditions on vaccination and harm reduction – is that it would be possible and proportionate to lift the major remaining legal restrictions on 9 August.

‘We will consider and make a final assessment nearer the time of whether – as we hope – this could include the lifting of the legal requirement to physically distance indoors as well as outdoors.’ 

The First Minister said: ‘Assuming we are meeting the revised strategic aim, we hope that all parts of Scotland, not currently in that level, can move to Level 0 on 19 July.

‘That means, for example, that the limits for household gatherings indoors will increase from that date, and up to 200 people will be able to attend weddings and funerals.

‘We also hope – assuming the data supports this – that the general indoor physical distancing requirement can be reduced from 2 metres to 1 metre.

‘And we hope, from that date, to lift the outdoor requirement to physically distance.

‘In addition – in recognition of the reduced risk of outdoor transmission and therefore the desire to encourage people to stay outdoors as much as possible – we hope that limits on informal outdoor social gatherings, in private gardens for example, will also be removed at this stage.’

She added: ‘The move beyond Level 0 will be a major milestone and it will signal a return to almost complete normality in our day to day lives.

‘Of course, while this is a longed-for moment, it is important to recognise that we still have a difficult path to navigate over the next few weeks to meet these milestones and, even assuming we do, the pandemic will not be completely over at this stage.

‘As our Strategic Framework Update paper sets out, basic mitigations will still be required, as we move through summer and into the autumn, when we face the risk of a further resurgence in cases.’

On homeworking she added: She said: ‘While recognising that a return to the workplace will be right for many, we will encourage continued support for home working where it is possible and appropriate.

‘This won’t just assist with control of the virus, it will also help promote well-being more generally.

‘However, I think many would agree that, as a general principle, home-working should be more possible post Covid than it was before.’

Matt Hancock today admitted England’s Covid outbreak is ‘slowing’ for the first time since the Indian variant took off.

The Health Secretary hailed ‘encouraging’ data showing the rate at which infections of the mutant strain are growing has started to decelerate, after spreading exponentially for nearly two months.

He said this, combined with the fact hospital rates are ‘not rising very quickly’ and deaths have stayed ‘very, very low’, gave him confidence the new Freedom Day on July 19 was ‘on track’.

Britain is recording nearly 10,000 daily infections now compared to 2,000 in late April when the ‘Delta’ variant was first seeded in the country.

But the speed at which cases are increasing every week has slowed to around 30 per cent, down from 65 per cent earlier this month.

Mr Hancock told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme: ‘We are seeing that growth in case rates is slowing.

‘Thankfully the number of hospitalisations, while rising, is not rising very quickly and thankfully even more is that the number of people dying from Covid remains very, very low.’

He added: ‘So I’d say we’re on track for the opening on the 19th of July, and we will watch vigilantly and we’ll look at the data in particular at the start of next week.

‘But I’d say the data has since, over last week or so, been encouraging, and especially looking at the number of people who are dying, that is staying very, very low and shows the vaccines are working and getting us out of this.’

Holidays ‘back on by August’: Double-jabbed Brits will find out on THURSDAY if amber list quarantine rules will be dropped as No10 looks at replacing isolation with testing and desperate travel firms beg Boris to let the ‘dawn break’ for the industry

Hopes are rising for a foreign summer holiday season in August as ministers are ‘working on’ plans to exempt fully vaccinated Britons from quarantine rules. 

Matt Hancock confirmed ministers are looking at how to scrap the requirement for people to isolate for 10 days on return from an amber list country. 

The Health Secretary said he is ‘in favour of moving forward in this area’ and replacing quarantine with daily testing.

Ministers will unveil an overhaul of international travel restrictions on Thursday this week, according to The Times, but the number of countries on the green list is not expected to change significantly.

It came as travel bosses warned ministers ‘the wolves are at the door’ as they issued a ‘heartfelt plea’ to simplify the traffic light rules and make it easier for Brits to go on holiday. 

Mark Tanzer, the chief executive of the ABTA travel association, channelled Winston Churchill as he told a conference this morning: ‘The darkest hour is right before the dawn’.  

But he said the travel industry ‘desperately needs to see day breaking soon’ as he called for quarantine-free travel to be introduced for people who have had both coronavirus vaccinations amid fears of another brutal summer holiday season for the sector. 

Meanwhile, travel experts said popular European tourist destinations with low Covid-19 case rates such as Malta, Italy and Germany should be added to the green list when the next set of changes are made. 

The PC Agency travel consultancy suggested 14 countries currently on Britain’s amber list could be moved to green because their Covid-19 case rates over the past fortnight are less than half those in Britain. 

Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, confirmed that ministers are looking at how to scrap the requirement for people to isolate for 10 days on return from an amber list country (pictured: Heathrow Airport)

Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, confirmed that ministers are looking at how to scrap the requirement for people to isolate for 10 days on return from an amber list country (pictured: Heathrow Airport)

The PC Agency travel consultancy has suggested that 14 countries currently on Britain's amber list could be moved to green

The PC Agency travel consultancy has suggested that 14 countries currently on Britain’s amber list could be moved to green

Boris Johnson, pictured returning to Downing Street this morning following a run, said yesterday he expected it to be a 'difficult year' for the travel industry

Boris Johnson, pictured returning to Downing Street this morning following a run, said yesterday he expected it to be a ‘difficult year’ for the travel industry

The 14 countries that travel companies say should be on the green list NOW

Popular European tourist destinations with low Covid-19 case rates such as Malta, Italy and Germany should be added to the UK’s quarantine-free ‘green list’ when ministers announce any changes, travel experts said today.

Analysis by the PC Agency consultancy suggested 14 countries currently on Britain’s ‘amber list’ could be moved to green because their Covid-19 case rates over the past fortnight are less than half those in Britain.

These countries also include other European spots such as Poland, Finland, Croatia and the Balearic Islands, along with the US, Canada, Mexico, Barbados and Grenada in North America. The only African country is Morocco.

The UK Government is set to decide this week on whether the current green list will be expanded from 11 countries which include only Gibraltar, Iceland and Israel as viable holiday destinations for British tourists.

But experts warned that mass changes were unlikely at the moment, especially given the move earlier this month to put Portugal on the amber list having pushed it to the green list in May. And a Whitehall insider told the Times: ‘The science says we could add lots of countries to the green list but some ministers are taking a different view.’ 

Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, said the next update on the traffic light system is due this Thursday, with the first milestone review of travel due on June 28 – although the two could be merged as part of an overall update on how the UK Government will treat double-jabbed citizens.

He told MailOnline this morning: ‘Our data shows there are 10 to 20 countries which should be on the green list as they are safe and zero or low risk. Malta, Grenada, Finland, Poland, Barbados should definitely be green.

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On the issue of travel quarantine, Mr Hancock told Sky News: ‘This hasn’t been clinically advised yet – we’re working on it.

‘We’re working on plans to essentially allow the vaccine to bring back some of the freedoms that have had to be restricted to keep people safe.

‘After all, that’s the whole purpose of the vaccination programme, that’s why it’s so important that every adult goes out and gets the jab.’ 

Asked if the new plans could be in place as soon as August, Mr Hancock said: ‘We’ll get there when it’s safe to do so.’ 

Speaking on LBC Radio, Mr Hancock said the Government is being ‘cautious about international travel’ in order to protect the progress made against Covid-19 at home.

He added: ‘Having said that, the whole point of the vaccine programme is to be able to remove restrictions, and for people to be able to be kept safe by the vaccine rather than by these rules.

‘So we are working on a plan for the double-vaccinated people, using tests, and to have that testing regime in place, instead of having to have the quarantine in some circumstances.

‘We’re working with the clinicians, because we want to make sure the plan is safe and secure, so I can’t give you a date but what I can tell you is that I’m in favour of moving forward in this area.’

The Health Secretary said the Government is ‘on track’ for the July 19 domestic easing of restrictions in England, but acknowledged that opening up travel abroad is ‘more difficult’.  

He also said the main NHS app, which is different from the Covid-19 app and records vaccination status, is ‘important’ as many countries are likely to require proof of having had a jab as a condition of allowing entry.   

‘We can now, all of us, see our vaccine status, see your testing status, on the NHS app,’ he said.

‘Six million people have now downloaded the main NHS app and on that you can show whether you have had the jabs.

‘It’s important because we know other countries are going to say that they want proof that you have been vaccinated before you go. So, when travel is opened up, we are going to make sure people have got that ability to prove it.’ 

The overhaul of rules on Thursday is expected to include proposals to exempt people who have had two jabs from the requirement to quarantine for 10 days.

Mark Tanzer, the chief executive of the ABTA travel association, said the travel industry 'desperately needs to see day breaking soon' as he called for quarantine-free travel to be introduced for people who have had both coronavirus vaccinations amid fears of another brutal summer holiday season for the sector

Mark Tanzer, the chief executive of the ABTA travel association, said the travel industry ‘desperately needs to see day breaking soon’ as he called for quarantine-free travel to be introduced for people who have had both coronavirus vaccinations amid fears of another brutal summer holiday season for the sector

Matt Hancock admits England’s Covid outbreak IS slowing down and says July 19 remains ‘on track’

Matt Hancock today admitted England’s Covid outbreak is ‘slowing’ for the first time since the Indian variant took off.

The Health Secretary hailed ‘encouraging’ data showing the rate at which infections of the mutant strain are growing has started to decelerate, after spreading exponentially for nearly two months. 

He said this, combined with the fact hospital rates are ‘not rising very quickly’ and deaths have stayed ‘very, very low’, gave him confidence the new Freedom Day on July 19 was ‘on track’.

Britain is recording nearly 10,000 daily infections now compared to 2,000 in late April when the ‘Delta’ variant was first seeded in the country. 

But the speed at which cases are increasing every week has slowed to around 30 per cent, down from 65 per cent earlier this month.

Mr Hancock told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme: ‘We are seeing that growth in case rates is slowing.

‘Thankfully the number of hospitalisations, while rising, is not rising very quickly and thankfully even more is that the number of people dying from Covid remains very, very low.’ 

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However, the easing of self-isolation rules will likely only apply to amber nations, with travel to and from red list countries still banned and subject to stays in hotel quarantine. 

Mr Hancock’s comments came as the travel industry renewed its calls for the Government to do more to help the sector. 

Mr Tanzer gave the opening address at ABTA’s annual ‘Travel Matters’ conference and said: ‘They say the darkest hour is right before the dawn. This dawn has been a long time coming, and we desperately need to see day breaking soon.’

He added: ‘At every turn we have been there giving evidence of what is happening on the ground, and working on practical steps to get travel moving again. And yet at our hour of greatest need the Government seem intent on looking away.’

Mr Tanzer said the travel sector wants the Government to apply the traffic light rules as originally set out. 

‘We accept that – for now – there needs to be risk management at our borders to protect public health in the UK,’ he said. 

‘But use the traffic light system as designed. And don’t overlay on it a further general and not understood warning against travel.’

He said the operation of the system must be ‘transparent and consistent’ because currently people have ‘no idea’ why countries are switched between the three categories. 

He also called for the system to be updated to ‘recognise that double vaccinated passengers have a different risk profile to non-vaccinated passengers, both in respect of infection and transmission’. 

He added: ‘The danger we face is here and now – the wolves are at the door. 

‘Every day counts in regaining this summer season – getting customers confident to book and to travel, and getting money into cash-starved businesses.’ 

Aviation Minister Robert Courts had been scheduled to address the conference but Mr Tanzer said he had pulled out because of a ‘diary clash’.

Mr Tanzer closed his speech with what he described as a ‘heartfelt plea for political change’ as he warned the industry would not tolerate being treated as a ‘political orphan’.            

Mr Johnson yesterday played down suggestions that restrictions on foreign travel could be lifted in the near future as he said people are likely to face ‘hassle’ and ‘delays’ during what will be a ‘difficult year for travel’.

Speaking during a visit to a laboratory in Hertfordshire, the Prime Minister said: ‘I want to stress that this is going to be – whatever happens – a difficult year for travel.

‘There will be hassle, there will be delays, I am afraid, because the priority has got to be to keep the country safe and stop the virus coming back in.’

People returning from a green list country are not required to quarantine, but there are no major viable tourist destinations in that tier following the removal of Portugal.

The amber list includes some of the most popular summer hotspots such as Spain, Italy, France and Greece.

Ryanair and Manchester Airports Group – which owns Manchester, Stansted and East Midlands Airports – are preparing legal action against the Government, calling for more transparency over how Whitehall decides which countries are on the green, amber and red lists. 

Warnings of ‘big risk’ of inflation as government debt hits 99% of GDP

Hopes were raised that Rishi Sunak might have more wriggle room to navigate the post-Covid inflation and debt minefield today as government borrowing came in below estimates in May.

The government was in the red by £24.3billion last month, down from £43.8billion a year earlier at the height of the pandemic – and crucially below the Office for Budget Responsibility’s forecasts.

However, the figure was still the second highest on record for the month and £18.9 billion more than in May 2019 before the pandemic struck, while national debt now stands at a staggering £2.2trillion. 

The grim fiscal backdrop was highlighted as former chancellor Ken Clarke warned there is a ‘big risk’ of inflation running out of control as he urged Mr Sunak to raise more revenue now to make the government less vulnerable to a resulting spike in interest payments.  

Responding to the figures, Mr Sunak reiterated his pledge to ‘get the public finances on a sustainable footing’. 

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