WE are living through unprecedented times. The coronavirus crisis is like nothing we have faced in most of our lifetimes.

The measures announced this week mean we are going to have to get used to living our lives differently.

That will not be easy – but it is essential. People’s way of life will be changing dramatically, and potentially for some time to come.

For many people that will put them in a very vulnerable position, both financially and socially.

Lives will be disrupted like never before – that will cause financial hardship and could impact negatively on wellbeing, including people’s emotional and mental health.

I want everyone to know that I and the Scottish Government are doing absolutely everything we possibly can to play our part in what is a global battle against the virus. That includes the package of £1.9 billion in measures to support the economy the Scottish Government announced yesterday, with every penny of support from the Treasury being passed on to businesses here.

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The coronavirus crisis is a reminder of how fragile our world is. But it also shows us the power and strength of communities and of human solidarity in times when we are tested.

We are all going to be a little more distant and remote from each other, including from some loved ones, in the days ahead. But, while modern technology can sometimes be seen as a curse, in the days and weeks ahead it will come to be more and more of a blessing, as we use different communication channels to keep in touch with and check in on friends and families.

In the days ahead we should also do everything we can to support our fantastic frontline health and social care workers, who are going to be tested like never before. Most of us will have friends and family who work in the sector – my own sister is one – and there is no limit to the debt of gratitude we owe them all.

The move to close schools across Scotland from the end of this week is a huge decision but a necessary one. My view is that closing schools and nurseries has become an inevitable step. In addition to the expert scientific advice, we also have to consider and acknowledge the reality on the ground. As people do the right thing and follow the advice to self-isolate or to isolate as a household, more and more schools are approaching a point where they have lost too many staff to continue as normal.

We are working closely with councils and John Swinney, the deputy first minister and Education Secretary, will today set out to the Scottish Parliament the arrangements we are putting in place.

His statement will address some of the key questions parents and pupils will have. That includes what this will mean for vulnerable pupils – those receiving school meals – because we must not cut adrift vulnerable children. We also need to consider what it means for pupils taking exams this year; because we will not blight the life chances of our children.

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And also – crucially – we need to carefully consider what it means for key workers. We must ensure that our doctors, nurses and other critical staff can still work. Quite simply, lives are on the line if they cannot.

I want to be open with people that we are all still working out all of the fine detail of exactly what all of this will mean. In some areas, private nurseries and childminder can play a massive role in helping key workers keep going.

In other areas, councils will use school buildings to reach vulnerable children. We will support any and every plan that helps people make this work.

We will work with teachers and all school staff – as well as those in the nursery sector – in the coming days because, other than parents themselves, they know children’s needs best. There will be a vital role for teachers and all school and nursery staff in the weeks ahead.

When it comes to how long school closures will last, people should not assume schools and nurseries will reopen after Easter.

We will, of course, only keep them closed for as long as we absolutely have to. But at this stage, I cannot promise that they will reopen before the summer break.

This has been one of the hardest decisions we have faced so far as we tackle the coronavirus.

We know this will massively disrupt life, society and the economy. We know it massively changes family life and nothing is more precious than that – but that is the measure of how serious the virus is.

I want to thank everyone across Scotland for their patience, understanding and co-operation.

We are heading into stormy waters. As First Minister, I will do everything I can to steer the ship safely through.

But we need everyone helping and playing their own part. It will not be easy – but together we will get through this.