NICOLA Sturgeon today told Scotland she would have to push back opening pubs as there was fresh evidence that they can be hotspots for the virus.
The First Minister announced she was undertaking a fresh review of the evidence before making any final calls.
But she expected to have to say that extra measures will be necessary to keep people safe.
Ms Sturgeon told MSPs in the Scottish Parliament this lunchtime: “There is emerging evidence that places like pubs, restaurants and gyms can be hotspots for transmission.
“So it is really important we better understand this evidence and what further mitigation might be necessary to protect people in such spaces before we permit them to reopen.
“I appreciate this will be hard for the hospitality industry.
“I want to give an assurance to businesses in that sector that we will continue to support preparations for reopening – for example by encouraging local authorities to facilitate the use of open outdoor spaces which pubs and restaurants can use for additional space.
“I expect to have this further scientific advice in two weeks and I will set out then, hopefully on or around 2 July, whether outdoor hospitality can re-open during phase 2 – which I hope will be the case – or if further mitigations are required ahead of phase 3.”
Scotland today announced more relaxation of coronavirus rules – many of which were introduced in England within the last three weeks.
People who are shielding are now able to go outside for the first time in months.
And single people living alone can form a support bubble with another household – and stay at theirs overnight.
Pubs in England are expected to be able to reopen on July the 4th, as part of Boris Johnson’s roadmap for easing lockdown restrictions.
But hopes of pubs serving up pints again have been marred by rows over the controversial 2 metre social distancing rule.
If the rule is relaxed to 1 metre, most British pubs could reopen safely – with 2 metres 37,000 could have to keep their doors closed.
But despite the pressure being heaped on the PM from all sides, Mr Johnson has refused to relent and has only promised a review of the rule, which will be announced before pubs reopen.
Mr Johnson said the other night he would do “everything in my power to get us back to normally as soon as possible”, but cautioned that the UK needs to proceed carefully.
Downing Street’s Chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said the rule could safely be relaxed in some circumstances.
He said: “There are times in which this can be changed and that evidence of course can then be the basis of a policy decision on what the right distance is that should be mandated or put forward as the rule to follow.”
Shops will open in Scotland in the coming weeks, too.
“Though we are moving to phase two today, we are still being cautious and we are not going to do everything at once,” Ms Sturgeon said today.
“We will take a staged approach to avoid bearing all of the risk at the same time.”