Post-Christmas lockdown 'remains on the table' as health secretary tight-lipped over likelihood

Jeane Freeman was tight-lipped over the likelihood of a post-Christmas lockdown for all or parts of Scotland as she said the option “remains on the table”.

The health secretary was asked what level of restrictions were likely to be in place after the Christmas period, during the Scottish Government’s daily coronavirus briefing on Friday.

She said the Cabinet would review coronavirus restrictions on Tuesday before a decision was announced to MSPs.

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Ms Freeman said: “Nothing at this point can sensibly be ruled out, but we will look at what the information we have tells us, the judgments we think are the right judgments to make, and we will make that clear on Tuesday when the First Minister speaks in the Scottish Parliament.

“Every possible option remains on the table.”

The minister also revealed Scotland had recorded 36 deaths from coronavirus and 744 positive tests in the past 24 hours.

The health secretary added: “All of us continue to take what we want to be the right decisions and we work very hard to make sure they are the right decisions for our particular circumstances and that has been the case throughout.

"Undoubtedly the situation in Northern Ireland is significantly more challenging than the one we face right now, but that shouldn’t mean we are complacent about the situation we face right now.

"The normal weekly review is underway and we will, as a Cabinet, discuss that on Tuesday and make that announcement on Tuesday.”

Professor Jason Leitch, the national clinical director, echoed the fact Scotland was not facing the same situation as other nations in the UK when it came to pressure on the NHS.

He said: “[There are] no emergency alerts, nobody phoning to tell me they need something done dramatically, but we monitor it very very carefully.

"I do also speak to colleagues around the UK and that would not be the picture in Wales and Northern Ireland right now. They are worried, particularly in Northern Ireland.

"You can hear in some of the language both from the politicians and clinical advisers quite how worried they are.”

Ms Freeman added: “It isn’t sensible on a Friday for me to say what I think is going to be the decisions that we reach as a Cabinet next Tuesday.

"All of that emerging thinking, intelligence and data is considered as we go and then we reach the judgements that we are best able to make, intending always to make the best possible decisions based too on the clinical advice we get from Prof Leitch, the chief medical officer and our chief nursing officer.”

However, when asked how likely it was that Scotland would follow suit, Ms Freeman was tight-lipped and refused to comment and referred to her previous answers on the topic.

The comments came as Northern Ireland is set for a six-week lockdown from December 26 to curb rising cases – with the closure of non-essential retail and contact services, as well as restricting the hospitality sector to takeaway only.

Wales will also go into its third full lockdown from December 28 amid a “sustained rise in coronavirus”.

Speaking in Manchester, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he hopes to avoid a third lockdown, but that “rates of infection have increased very much in the last few weeks”.

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