Given the good progress on vaccinating the priority groups, which include not just the over-80s and those in care homes but, in the weeks ahead, groups such as unpaid carers, when will the Scottish Government be able to review and, I hope, ease the significant restrictions that have been placed on hospital and care home visits for family members, so that they can visit their loved ones? Can the First Minister say a little more about when that might happen and what it might look like?
None of us wants the very severe restrictions on people’s ability to visit loved ones in care homes or hospitals to be in place for a minute longer than is necessary. The impact of the restrictions has been severe and distressing, and the situation has affected the mental wellbeing of care home residents and the people who love them. We all want to get to a position of normality as soon as possible, but it has to be done safely. Given the level at which the virus is circulating, and particularly the impact of the new variant that is circulating widely in Scotland and the fear about other new variants, we have to be cautious.
The reason for focusing on care homes first was to ensure that we gave maximum protection to that most vulnerable group and the staff members who work closely with them. I hope that the vaccine will allow us to get back to greater normality there, sooner rather than later. However, to go back to my answer to the previous question, there are still unanswered questions about the impact of the vaccine on transmission, so we have to continue to be cautious. That is why I will not put a date on it. However, I absolutely assure everybody who is watching and who is desperately missing a loved one in a care home that we will get you back to visiting as normally as possible just as quickly as it is deemed safe to do so.