Covid-19 (Next Steps)

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 9th July 2020.

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The First Minister:

I was starting to wonder whether Jackson Carlaw was outlining his own summer holiday plans.

I am particularly interested in what appeared to be a proposition from Jackson Carlaw that, when there are different prevalence rates within a country, different arrangements around travel should apply. Perhaps Jackson Carlaw may want to reflect on that in relation to different circumstances in future, recognising that, right now, the prevalence rate of the virus in Scotland is several times lower—five times lower, based on the most recent data that we have—than it is the rest of the UK.

I will be very straight, as I was yesterday, on the decision about Spain. I understand how difficult that is for our aviation and tourism sectors, and indeed for those who might want to go overseas over the summer—although my advice to people in Scotland who want to go on holiday is to support the Scottish tourism industry by staying in Scotland to have a holiday, if they are able to. We do not yet have sufficient data broken down to subdivide Spain into different areas. I said yesterday that we want to work to develop that picture, so that we might be able to take a more targeted decision in the near future.

Yesterday, I had data that showed that the prevalence rate of the virus in Spain right now is more than 10 times higher than it is in Scotland. Jackson Carlaw may want to argue that that should be ignored and that we should cast that aside, but I point to what I said in my opening remarks: as we go from one phase of the route map into another, we assess ourselves against the WHO’s six criteria. This week, the one that was most difficult for us to give that assessment on was that of guarding against the risk of importing infection from other countries. The decision yesterday was vital in giving us assurance to enable the move into phase 3 at this stage, but we will continue to assess that and seek as granular a picture of the situation in different countries as we can get. That is not just about prevalence because, as I am sure that Jackson Carlaw is aware, there are two factors at play here: prevalence and any particular circumstances around outbreaks or approaches in controlling the infection. Work is on-going among the four chief medical officers across the UK right now to allow us to make more targeted assessments on that basis.