Nicola Sturgeon has said the UK’s coronavirus lockdown is likely to last for another three weeks.
Speaking on Good Morning Britain, Scotland’s first minister said a three-week timeframe is a “reasonable assumption”.
It comes ahead of a government meeting on Thursday in which the restrictions, which were first enforced on 23 March, are set to be extended.
Other European countries, including Spain and Italy – two of the worst-hit in the world – have begun easing their lockdowns.
Sturgeon, however, said: “Obviously I can only speak for Scotland and my decisions as first minister… but we’re not yet at a stage where we can be confident we have sufficiently suppressed this virus, so that if we started to lift measures it wouldn’t simply run out of control again.
“I know this is really tough for people to hear but it is likely to be another few weeks in lockdown.”
Sturgeon, who has been taking part in Downing Street’s UK-wide meetings about COVID-19, went on: “To try and give people some assurance and some sense of hope, the work and the thinking about how we do start to come out of this lockdown is already under-way.
“I certainly hope, in the days to come, to be able to share more of that thinking with the public so that there is an understanding of the factors that we’re taking into account, and the principles that are guiding those decisions.
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“The priority has to be to ask people to continue to do the right thing to stay at home. It remains absolutely essential to slow down the spread, to save lives and to stop the NHS being overwhelmed.”
On Wednesday, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer wrote a letter to first secretary Dominic Raab – standing in for Boris Johnson as the prime minister recovers from his own coronavirus ordeal – demanding the government publishes its lockdown exit strategy.
I urge the government to publish their exit strategy.
Millions of people are playing their part. In return, the government needs to be open and transparent with the public about how it believes the lockdown will ease and eventually end.
My letter to @DominicRaab: pic.twitter.com/u6PLQK5m4w
— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) April 15, 2020
“Millions of people are playing their part,” Sir Keir said.
“In return, the government needs to be open and transparent with the public about how it believes the lockdown will ease and eventually end.”
As of Tuesday, 12,107 people had died from COVID-19 in the UK, according to the government’s official death toll.
Some 93,873 people have been infected.