The co-leader of Aberdeen City Council has spoken of the “tough decisions” that were made leading up to the introduction of a local lockdown, and clarified some of the finer details.
The decision was made at a meeting of SGORR (the Scottish Government’s resilience committee) this morning, chaired by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and including the council, NHS Grampian and Police Scotland.
It came as NHS Grampian confirmed the number of positive Covid-19 cases linked to an outbreak at the Hawthorn Bar had increased to 54, with a further 32 venues being linked with people who subsequently tested positive.
Council co-leader Douglas Lumsden said: “Myself, the chief executive and my co-leader Jenny Laing had a meeting with the Scottish Government’s SCOR group this morning, we were just invited to it late last night.
“We heard from NHS Grampian that the number of cases was still increasing quite rapidly and there were concerns that it was spreading not just from an isolated area of the Hawthorn Bar, but it could develop into community transfer as well.
“From that, everyone on the call agreed that we needed to take action.
“We heard some of the things that could be put in place and that’s why we agreed on the main actions that we’ve put in place today, which is to close pubs and restaurants, to enforce a five mile limit on travel for social and leisure purposes and to stop meetings indoors.”
Mr Lumsden said public transport would still be available in the city through the lockdown, though he was waiting for additional guidance from the Scottish Government regarding whether people would still be able to go on holiday from Aberdeen International Airport.
He added: “In terms of travel within the city, buses will still be in use, but obviously people still have to follow the FACTS guidance that the Scottish Government say about wearing face coverings, keeping a two metre distance, cleaning hands and avoiding crowds.
“So that will still remain open, but people will still have to be vigilant.”
Regarding schools, he said: “One of the key things to us is to have schools reopen next week, and if we don’t get a handle on community spread, it would be difficult for us to open schools.
“So that’s why we’re making the tough decisions now, to hopefully make things easier in the coming weeks.”
In her press briefing this afternoon, Ms Sturgeon confirmed affected businesses would be able to re-furlough their staff – though Mr Lumsden said further financial assistance would be sought.
He said: “It was good to see the first minister mention the re-furlough scheme today, because that was something we’d brought up – yes, there’s a furlough scheme, but is there any other financial assistance that could be given to the pubs and restaurants in Aberdeen because of this.
“This ban comes in at 5pm tonight, I’m sure many places will already have had their stock ready for tonight.
“Obviously there’s the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ campaign that’s going on just now, and I’m sure many restaurants will have been fully booked, and this will have a big impact on them.
“So the Scottish Government have said they will go away and they will look at whether any financial assistance can be given to bars and restaurants in Aberdeen because of this lockdown kicking in.”
The local lockdown will be reviewed next Wednesday, with Mr Lumsden saying it will be decided whether the council “can start relaxing some of these measures or if more measures have to be introduced”.
He added: “I think what this has taught us is, I think there may be many people who maybe thought this virus had gone away, and wasn’t really in the city.
“What we’ve seen from this is it doesn’t take much for it to ramp up really quickly, and we need to be on our guard.”
Mr Lumsden’s fellow co-leader at Aberdeen City Council, Jenny Laing, rejected the idea that the local lockdown showed Aberdeen businesses did not follow the guidance.
She said: “I don’t think we have any indications that the guidance that is in place hasn’t been followed by businesses in Aberdeen.
“Even the Hawthorn Bar, where the first four or five cases were discovered, was visited by both public health and environmental health and were complying with the guidance that was laid down, and therefore the establishment remained open.
“I’m not sure that Aberdeen will be the only place that will be experiencing this, we may just be the first because we have brought people out of a lockdown situation and now people are mingling with each other again.”