Nicola Sturgeon has said coronavirus is “in retreat” in Scotland as she revealed there have been no new deaths from the disease for a second day in a row.
The First Minister said 2,415 patients who tested positive for Covid-19 have died – no change on the previous day’s total.
She welcomed the “very encouraging” figures and said she is now “optimistic” Scotland can move to the second phase of its four-part plan to ease out of lockdown when the restrictions are reviewed next week.
But she also struck a note of caution, warning the virus could still “roar back with a vengeance” and told the most vulnerable Scots, who are in shielding, that the time frame for this is being extended.
As of 2pm today 127,204 people in Scotland have been tested for #coronavirus— Scottish Government (@scotgov) June 8, 2020
111,565 confirmed negative
2,415 patients who tested positive have sadly died.
Latest update ➡️ https://t.co/bZPbrCoQux
Health advice ➡️ https://t.co/l7rqArB6Qu#COVIDー19 pic.twitter.com/Q9RpuH4VW0
Those at great risk of serious harm from coronavirus had been told to shield until June 18, with this now extended until the end of July.
But the First Minister said people in the shielded category can leave their home for daily exercise from Thursday June 18, provided they do not live in care homes.
They are still being advised not to meet up with other people from different households.
Ms Sturgeon, speaking at her daily briefing in Edinburgh, stressed that “sticking with this for a bit longer really does matter”.
She added the “painful but necessary sacrifices” people have made since lockdown was imposed “have brought us to where we are today with this virus in retreat”.
The First Minister added the disease is “in retreat but not gone and still posing a real risk, especially to the most clinically vulnerable”.
She said: “This is such a crucial juncture in our battle against this virus.
“We will either keep going, keep beating it back, as we are now, or we will give it the chance to roar back with a vengeance. We must, must do the former.”
A total of 15,639 people have now tested positive for Covid-19 in Scotland, up 18 from 15,621 the day before.
There are 1,042 people in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19, an increase of 40 from the previous day, and 24 patients are in intensive care, a decrease of one.
The First Minister said a second consecutive day with no new deaths is “very encouraging”.
She added: “I can’t tell you how long I have waited to be able to report such a development.”
But the First Minister said more deaths from the virus are likely to be reported in the coming days.
Nevertheless, she said she is “optimistic” at the next review of restrictions on June 18 that Scotland will be “able to move, at least in part into the next phase of our route map out of lockdown with more individual freedoms restored and more businesses able to open up and operate again”.
Moving into phase two could allow households to meet indoors, while pubs and restaurants could open outdoor spaces and marriages and civil partnerships could take place with minimal number of attendees
Smaller stores may also be able to reopen for business then, with physical distancing and hygiene measures in place.
The Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) said some non-essential stores in Northern Ireland are already reopening, with England planning for more stores to allow shoppers back from next week.
SRC director David Lonsdale said: “Those shops who have been open and trading during the crisis have led the way in providing a safe environment for shoppers and staff.
“Those stores still to be allowed to re-open are working hard to get ready to do so safely, putting in place the necessary social distancing and hygiene measures to protect customers and staff.
“Whenever that day comes retail will be ready to play its part in getting Scotland’s economy moving again. Retail can be a springboard for the economy to bounce back but it must be able to open.”