Nicola Sturgeon has dampened hopes that Britain’s coronavirus lockdown could soon be lifted.
The Scottish First Minister told ITV’s Robert Peston show that she can’t see any of the lockdown measures being relaxed on May 7, when the next review is due.
Her sobering message comes after Dominic Raab warned that the UK was keen to avoid a second lockdown by lifting restrictions too easily.
The Foreign Secretary, and Boris Johnson’s stand-in lately, said that Germany is starting to see renewed infections after easing its lockdown.
And now Ms Sturgeon’s comments further reinforce the feeling that there will no quick “return to normal” for Brits hit by the lockdown.
Schools will reopen in a phased way but no date has been set yet, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said on Wednesday.
Businesses such as garden centres may be allowed to reopen soon while the government is reportedly stockpiling face masks to possibly help commuters.
Ms Sturgeon this week advised Scots to wear masks in shops and on public transport – but stressed this was not a substitute for social distancing.
The words of caution come as Britain’s death toll from the virus soared to more than 26,000 after retrospective care home and community victims were added to the official toll.
This makes the UK the second worst-hit country in Europe and third worst in the world.
SNP leader Sturgeon claimed the decision to ease measures will not be a “flick of the switch moment” and will have to be “very slow, very gradual”.
She said: “People talk about lifting the lockdown, that is not going to be a flick of the switch moment – we’re going to have to be very careful, very slow, very gradual.
“I’m far from convinced at this stage that when we get to the next review point on the 7th of May we’ll be in a position to lift any of these measures right now, because the margins of manoeuvre that we’re operating in right now are very, very, very tight and narrow.”
It comes after Sturgeon changed her government’s approach by backing wearing face masks in public in “limited circumstances” on Tuesday – something not yet endorsed by her Westminster counterparts.
She stressed the evidence guiding her was “limited and not overwhelming” and that face coverings are not a substitute for staying at home.
But she insisted there are “some benefits” to be yielded if the coverings are used in crowded shops or on public transport.
However, Sturgeon urged people “not to point the finger at people not doing it”.
The advice does not refer to medical style masks, but a covering such as a scarf.
Boris Johnson is also expected also to urge caution with regard to easing the lockdown on Thursday for fear of bringing about a ‘second wave’.
The PM, a day after becoming a father again, is expected to signal an extension of tough lockdown measures when he attends his first daily press conference since his own battle with coronavirus.
Wetherspoons today said it was planning to reopen pubs “in or around” June, although it is thought bars and restaurants are likely to be closed for much longer than that.