A council leader has spoken of his “relief” after Nicola Sturgeon ruled out a return to full lockdown when she unveils new coronavirus measures today.
The first minister confirmed she will announce “additional targeted steps” in a statement to the Scottish Parliament later after her cabinet was unable to reach agreement on a way forward yesterday.
Ms Sturgeon was unable to give specific details on the new restrictions but said people will not be told to stay at home, as they were in March, schools will only close for the October holidays and there will be no national travel ban.
She said the Scottish Government was “not about to impose travel restrictions on the entire country” but did not rule out local travel restrictions.
Aberdeenshire Council leader Jim Gifford feels residents would not be so happy to accept national lockdown measures such as the type brought in during the spring.
He said he was “surprised” with what officials have said after speculation of potentially stricter measures being introduced.
Councillor Gifford said: “Given what was widely trailed over the last few day, I was somewhat surprised but also relieved that further restrictions have not been imposed.
“We have, thankfully, avoided the worst of the current increases in Covid cases here in the north-east and long may that continue.
“I think everyone would be accepting of additional local restrictions if the local circumstances dictated that that had to happen. After all this time, I don’t think that people would be so accepting of national restrictions to deal with regional issues and that is what the Scottish Government seems to have decided as well.
“We are clearly not out of the woods on this yet so we will still need to wait and see what happens over the coming days, weeks and months.”
The first minister did not rule out the possible closure of pubs and restaurants in areas with higher rates of the virus.
Aberdeen’s hospitality sector was hit with its own shut down following a Covid cluster in August.
Stuart McPhee from Siberia Bar and Hotel, who also leads trade group Aberdeen Hospitality Together, said any major changes may be the “final straw” for businesses in the sector.
He said: “The industry is bracing for more restrictions, of what nature we do not know.
“To date, we have on the whole been nothing but quite frankly excellent as a sector to adapting and moving with the guidelines through the pandemic route map. But now this may be the final straw for many.
“Especially in the local context of Aberdeen venues potentially going into its third enforced closure.
“We hope that our place in the economy is not underestimated and we are given adequate recompense for any further restriction or enforced closure.”
Douglas LumsdenAberdeen City Council co-leader Douglas Lumsden said businesses will need “clarity” on the impact of the new restrictions.
He said: “Businesses are looking for some clarity but all they can take from today’s announcement is more uncertainty.
“When Aberdeen had a spike in cases we had a lockdown, when there was a spike in Glasgow the first minister failed to tackle the issue and we are all now paying the price.”
Speaking during her coronavirus briefing on Tuesday, Ms Sturgeon said Scotland was facing “the most difficult decision point yet” if it wanted to suppress the virus ahead of winter and admitted the wider harms of lockdown “weigh very heavily” on her.
She said the country was facing a “sharply rising rate of infection again” and she had to “strike a balance” between protecting public health and the wider costs of lockdown to the economy and people’s lives.
“We are not going to ask you to stay inside your own homes the way we did in March,” Ms Sturgeon said.
“And while we have been asking people to think carefully about non-essential travel, and while restrictions on travel may sometimes be an option and necessary for hotspot areas, we are not about to impose restrictions on the whole of the country.
“We are not about the shut down the whole economy or halt the remobilisation of the NHS. And apart from the October holidays, we are not proposing to close schools even partially.”
Meanwhile, a further 20 people have tested positive for Covid-19 in the north-east in the past 24 hours, according to the latest Scottish Government statistics.
The latest update from the Scottish Government shows the number of positive cases since the outbreak began has risen to 33,706 since Monday.
The new cases represent 13.2% of newly tested individuals.
A total of 262 people are in hospital with recently confirmed Covid-19 and 25 of those are receiving treatment in intensive care.
Two new coronavirus-linked deaths have been registered in the past 24 hours.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, a total of 812,862 people in Scotland have been tested. Of these people, 779,156 were confirmed negative.
A regional breakdown of the data shows there have been 20 new cases in Grampian since yesterday. The north-east’s total is now 2,451.