New figures have provided the first indication an outbreak of coronavirus in Aberdeen could be coming back under control, after the city and its surrounding areas accounted for fewer than half of new confirmed cases.
Nicola Sturgeon said the number of laboratory-confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Scotland had risen by 52 overnight but just 27 had been recorded in the NHS Grampian area.
Speaking at the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing on Tuesday, she said it is not yet clear how many of these new cases are linked to the Aberdeen outbreak but indications are the rate of increase is slowing.
It came as a leading public health expert warned every pub in the city may have been affected, and that a lack of physical distancing had played a “significant factor” in the spread of the virus.
The Aberdeen City Council area was placed into local lockdown on Wednesday, with shops, restaurants and bars ordered to close, residents banned from having visitors to their homes and a five-mile travel limit in place for leisure activities.
The lockdown measures are due to be reviewed again today.
Ms Sturgeon said there had been 253 coronavirus cases in Aberdeen since the outbreak began on July 26 and more than half of these, 165, were associated with the outbreak linked to Aberdeen pubs.
“The rate of increase appears at this stage to be slowing down but of course we remain very vigilant,” she said.
Ms Sturgeon praised the work of the contact tracing teams who have so far identified 875 contacts, adding: “It is clear we are likely to identify new cases and new contacts for at least the next few days.”
Aberdeen Donside MSP Mark McDonald asked Cabinet Secretary Jeane Freeman in a meeting of parliament this afternoon what restrictions would need to be met in order to ease local restrictions in Aberdeen.
Ms Freeman said: “The current situation [will be reviewed] tomorrow at the end of the seven day period to consider whether restrictions should remain necessary. Our decisions will be informed by the advice of the Grampian Instant Management Team, local clinical advice and of course our own Scottish Government clinical advice.
“The type of evidence and data that will be available to us to take those actions cover, for example, the number of cases, the rate of increase or decrease in numbers, changes or not in age range and the situation in neighbouring geographies.
“Case numbers today as the member may know are beginning to show the situation appears to be decelerating but it has not yet stopped.”
Mr McDonald added: “I thank the cabinet secretary for her answer I’m sure she will appreciate that these are very worrying times for my constituents and for other residents in the city of Aberdeen, many of whom are hoping that there will be some good news around the corner but recognising nonetheless that the risk still remains.”
Public health medicine consultant Dr Emmanuel Okpo said it is likely all pubs in Aberdeen have been affected.
“It is clear from our investigations to date that a lack of physical distancing has been the significant factor in the spread of these cases,” he said.
“While pubs and restaurants have guidelines to work to, to support physical distancing, it is also the responsibility of each one of us to keep our distance.
“Last week, we circulated a list of pubs and restaurants which we had compiled during the course of our interviews with all detected cases at that point. This list was not shared to assign blame to any individual premises.”
Dr Okpo added: “We now consider that all licensed premises in Aberdeen are likely affected in some way. This is because physical distancing – or the lack of it – has come up repeatedly in our investigation.
“I would stress again that we must all take personal responsibility for physical distancing.”
Meanwhile, an outbreak linked to a pharmacy in Inverclyde has been contained, according to Health Secretary Jeane Freeman.
Ms Freeman said there have been no new cases linked to the Port Glasgow cluster since Saturday and it has “reached the end of the transmission chain”.
Ms Freeman said the Port Glasgow outbreak was “significantly different” to the one in Aberdeen.
The rise in overall daily coronavirus cases takes the total number of people in Scotland who have tested positive for the virus to 19,079. The first minister said no deaths had been recorded of patients who tested positive for coronavirus in the previous 28 days.
There were also no deaths under this measure for 26 consecutive days, with the total remaining at 2,491. Of the people who tested positive, 269 were in hospital – up two from the previous day. Of these, three were in intensive care.