Lockdown measures imposed following Aberdeen’s coronavirus outbreak are to remain in place for at least another week, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
The first minister said there was as yet no requirement to introduce more restrictions in Aberdeenshire when she updated MSPs on the situation.
At First Minister’s Questions, Ms Sturgeon said 272 cases had been identified in Grampian since July 26, of which 177 had been linked to the cluster associated with Aberdeen pubs.
From those 177 people, 940 other individuals had been contact-traced.
Giving her daily Covid-19 update, Ms Sturgeon said there had been no Scottish deaths from the disease in the last 24 hours under the measurement used to produce daily figures.
But weekly figures from the National Records of Scotland (NRS) – where Covid is the cause or suspected cause of deaths – showed there had been five deaths in the seven days leading up to Sunday.
That was a decrease of two on the week before and the lowest NRS weekly total since the beginning of the outbreak.
But there had been another 47 people who had tested positive for the disease since the day before – 24 of the new cases were in the NHS Grampian area but it was not clear how many of them were connected to the outbreak in the city.
Based on an assessment from the incident management team and advice from the chief medical officer, the Scottish Government’s conclusion is that it is not yet possible to lift any of the restrictions that were put in place last week for Aberdeen.”
Although there had been a slight fall in the number of new cases in Grampian and those directly associated with the cluster, the levels were still too high for relaxing the measures to be a “safe or sensible” course of action. The situation will be reviewed again in a week’s time.
Ms Sturgeon said: “Cases are still far higher than in any other part of the country and considerably higher than they were in Grampian before the outbreak started. So based on an assessment from the incident management team and advice from the chief medical officer, the Scottish Government’s conclusion is that it is not yet possible to lift any of the restrictions that were put in place last week for Aberdeen.”
She added: “We continue to watch closely for any signs that the outbreak has spread to Aberdeenshire in any significant way, but at present we are not placing any additional restrictions on people living in the ‘Shire.”
Ms Sturgeon said police had reported a high level of compliance with the additional restrictions imposed last week and thanked the public for taking heed of them.
Aberdeen City Council and Police Scotland had been involved in the decision to continue the local lockdown measures.
She added: “I want to stress that nobody wants these restrictions to be in place for longer than is necessary. They will be reviewed in one week’s time and as soon as we can relax any of them, then we will do.”
The restrictions in Aberdeen mean:
- Bars, cafes, restaurants and pubs are closed
- No travel more than five miles for leisure or holidays
- No travel to the city for leisure or to visit friends and family, even if you live in Aberdeenshire
- No indoor visits with other households
- Visiting suspended for most hospitals
Ms Sturgeon defended the Test and Protect system when Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie asked why it had been “unable to contain” the virus in Aberdeen.
Mr Rennie said the city had gone from “isolated incidents to a full regional lockdown” in a “matter of hours”.
Ms Sturgeon claimed the system had worked “very effectively”, saying that the situation in the city would have been far worse without it.
The first minister said Test and Protect had identified Aberdeen’s pubs as the source of the outbreak, but stressed that the first line of defence against the virus was people taking action to protect themselves against it.
“Test and Protect has worked very effectively in Aberdeen,” she said. “Without test and protect, we would not be dealing with – albeit a large and complex outbreak – but one that I hope is on its way to being contained. We would already be dealing with widespread community transmission.”
In response to Aberdeen South and North Kincardine MSP Maureen Watt, Ms Sturgeon said she would press the Treasury to extend the Eat Out to Help Out scheme in the city to help hospitality businesses when the restrictions are relaxed.
But the first minister added that it was not yet “safe of sensible” to reopen cafes which do not have an alcohol licence, but added that the situation would be kept under review.
The first minister also pledged to look at guidance on childcare arrangements for those Aberdonians who rely on grandparents based in Aberdeenshire, after the issue was raised by Aberdeen Donside MSP Mark McDonald.