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Three week delay to easing ‘in order to buy time’

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon today said the easing of Covid-19 restrictions in Scotland is likely to be delayed, though she refused to give a firm date.

The whole country was due to move to the lowest level zero from 28 June. But it is now “likely” that current restrictions will remain for three more weeks.

Ms Sturgeon acknowledged the announcement would be “difficult and frustrating” for everyone but said the Scottish government needed to “buy ourselves sufficient time” to allow the vaccination programme to continue its work.

She said: “Given the current situation – and the need to get more people fully vaccinated before we ease up further – it is reasonable to indicate now that I think it unlikely that any part of the country will move down a level from June 28.”

The Covid case rate in Scotland is five times higher than it was in early May, she said.

Ms Sturgeon said that the delay would “give us the best chance, later in July, of getting back on track and restoring the much greater normality that we all crave”

A formal decision will not be taken until next week, but Ms Sturgeon said it was “reasonable to indicate now that I think it unlikely that any part of the country will move down a level” as planned.

It means the country’s mainland council areas will remain in either level one or level two, although many island communities including Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles are already in level zero.

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Ms Sturgeon said the vaccination programme was weakening the link between the rising number of cases – largely driven by the so-called Delta variant that was first detected in India – and serious illness and deaths.

But she said there were still too many people who have not yet had both doses of the vaccine.

She also said she did not want to “commit to firm dates” for easing restrictions, saying she was “not going to give false guarantees” in the face of an “unpredictable virus”.

While the wider easing of restrictions is likely to be delayed, ministers will consider whether some rules could be changed to correct “perceived anomalies”.

Many soft play owners, for example, have questioned why their facilities remain closed in level two areas while trampoline centres are allowed to open.

Stephen Montgomery at the Scottish Hospitality Group, said: “This is a never-ending hell for hospitality workers and the businesses that employ them, especially those in the music and night-time sectors. However, if the Scottish Government is seriously going to consider better ways of managing our path through COVID then we would welcome that.”

Andrew McRae, the Federation of Small Businesses Scotland policy chairman, said: “Any unlocking delay comes with consequences for Scottish businesses and jobs.

“Hospitality and tourism firms face further weeks of restrictions which make it difficult to cover their overheads, never mind pay down their debts. We must remember that nightclubs, softplay centres and much of the events industry remain unable to trade at all.

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“That’s why the bare minimum FSB expects is for state support to be proportionate to the scale of the restrictions. It would be unforgivable if governments in Edinburgh and London wound down the help on offer for firms while prolonging their difficulties.”

Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said: “We welcome today’s confirmation that the long-awaited publication of the Scottish Government review of the unviable social distancing rules and more detail on plans for taking Scotland beyond the levels system, will finally be published next week.”

Morgan Stanley boss wants staff back in offices

Morgan Stanley chief executive James Gorman sent a strong message to staff in the US who are reluctant to return to their desks, saying, “If you can go into a restaurant in New York City, you can come into the office.”

“By Labor Day, I’ll be very disappointed if people haven’t found their way into the office and then we’ll have a different kind of conversation,” Gorman added, referring to the US public holiday at the start of September.

“If you want to get paid New York rates, you work in New York,” he told analysts and investors during a virtual conference.

The bank chief delivered his tough message on the same day as Goldman Sach’s US-based employees were expected to return to the office. JPMorgan Chase & Co has given its staff a July deadline to return to the office.



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