The rate of community transmission of coronavirus in Scotland is slowing down, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
The “first signs of hope are already there”, she said, as statistics indicated lockdown measures are helping to slow the spread of the virus and save lives.
Speaking at the daily coronavirus briefing at the Scottish Government headquarters in Edinburgh, the First Minister announced 837 patients have now died in Scotland after testing positive for coronavirus, according to Health Protection Scotland.
This is an increase of 58 deaths from 779 on Thursday.
The newest death toll remains lower than that announced by the National Records of Scotland of deaths where Covid-19 is mentioned on the death certificate, which stood at 962 as of April 12 – the latest figure available.
Ms Sturgeon said 7,409 people have now tested positive for the virus in Scotland, up by 307 from 7,102 on Thursday.
There are 189 people in intensive care with coronavirus or coronavirus symptoms, a decrease of seven on Thursday, she added.
There are 1,799 people in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19, a figure unchanged from Thursday.
Ms Sturgeon said her advisers believe “the lockdown restrictions have resulted in a slowing down of the rate of community transmission of the virus”.
She said: “That is positive news and while we can’t be complacent and can never be complacent in dealing with this virus, that slowdown seems to be reflected in a stabilisation of the numbers being admitted to hospital and intensive care… In short, we believe that these restrictions are working.”
But restrictions will not be lifted as it could lead to an exponential resurgence of the virus and the NHS becoming overwhelmed, she said, adding: “We can’t take that risk.”
She confirmed the Scottish Government will set out measures to ease the lockdown over the next week.
Ms Sturgeon continued: “We have a long way to go but we are beginning to see signs that the lockdown is working.
“The first signs of hope are already there.”
She also addressed the economic impacts of the virus, announcing an economic recovery advisory group will be established in Scotland to assist the Government, bringing together business leaders and economic experts to “prepare Scotland for some of the challenges that lie ahead”.
Glasgow University principal Sir Anton Muscatelli and former Tesco Bank boss Benny Higgins were announced as the first two members of the advisory group on Friday evening.
Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “We want Scotland to recover as quickly as possible from this outbreak.
“Rapidly rebuilding a resilient economy in a way that supports Scotland’s wellbeing and transition toward a greener, net zero country will be vital.”
Initial proposals are expected from the group by the end of June.
The First Minister also revealed further support for the seafood sector – saying the market has “effectively collapsed” – unveiling a £3.5 million package for fishing vessels over 12 metres.
“That means in total more than 1,000 businesses are eligible for support,” she said, and it brings overall support for the sea food, fishing and aquaculture sectors to nearly £23 million.
Ms Sturgeon also announced £215 million in coronavirus financial support has been paid out to businesses so far from £1.3 billion in grants and support available.
Scottish Health Secretary Jeane Freeman also outlined further support for care homes during the outbreak in the briefing.
She said that from this weekend, PPE from the national stockpile will be delivered directly to care homes.
Ms Freeman also said the Scottish Government will ensure guidance against communal gathering in care homes is being followed in every facility, adding: “Where there are particular problems in doing that, perhaps in the case of residents who have severe dementia, that we can provide additional guidance and support.”