Rules on the sale of alcohol in pubs could be reviewed if social distancing measures are repeatedly breached, Deputy First Minister John Swinney has warned.
His comments come in the wake of footage released showing revellers hugging and dancing on tables at a pop-up pub in Aberdeen following Scotland’s victory over Serbia on Thursday night.
And Mr Swinney admitted coronavirus infection levels in Aberdeenshire were rising and that the authority area could be moved from level two to three at the next review stage.
The return of students to university in January will most likely be staggered to try to prevent a repeat of the September spike in coronavirus transmission, Mr Swinney added.
Further lockdown not ruled out
Greater Glasgow and Lanarkshire health board areas could also be subjected to the strictest restrictions, level four, should the virus continue to spread at its current rate, he said.
“I can confirm that officials in the Scottish Government have been in touch with a number of local authorities in the west of Scotland about the possibility of the areas having to be increased from level three to level four.
“Those are in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde and Lanarkshire health board areas.
“There are a number of other local authorities around the country that have been contacted because we are seeing, in some circumstances, quite significant increases in the prevalence of the virus.
“For example, there’s quite a substantial rise in Aberdeenshire, which is a level two authority; there’s quite a substantial rise in Stirling, which is a level three authority.
“So it’s not just those areas in the west of Scotland that have been contacted. There are other areas in the country where we’re looking very closely, as we do on a daily basis, at the prevalence of the virus.”
Pub rules could be looked at again
On the scenes at the pop-up Draft Project in Aberdeen, Mr Swinney said rules could be reviewed in the wake of breaches.
He said: “We try to put in place proportionate arrangements for the opening of hospitality to different degrees across different levels and different arrangements exist between level two and level three so we are trying to be as accommodating of the ability of pubs and hospitality organisations to be open.
“But they have always got to operate consistent with the social distancing rules that are in place, if we don’t see that happening then obviously we would have to revisit some of those regulations, because social distancing is critical in enabling us to interrupt the spread of the virus.”
Mr Swinney said the match had been an “anxious” affair and celebrated the team’s success in reaching a major finals for the first time in 22 years.
He added: “It is a magnificent achievement and a real piece of bright, good news for us all.
“After a very tough year the team have given the whole nation a lift at a time when it really needed it and we can all now look forward to Scotland taking part in the tournament next year, after such a long break from such competitions.
“But to put us in the best place to enjoy that we have to suppress the virus.”
Student return will be staggered
Mr Swinney acknowledged the spike in coronavirus transmission across the country, in particular university towns, in September and said the same mistake could not be repeated.
Following on from an announcement this week students would be given two “thirty minute” tests before heading home for Christmas, he said their return for the next semester in January would be staggered to avoid overwhelming the health service.
“We set out the other day we would be looking at a staggered return for students after the Christmas holidays,” he said.
“That has to be done in a way that does not fuel infectiousness.
“In September we had a significant spike in the virus, which came about at the same time of the return of students.
“We have got to avoid that, in January, in mid-winter, when we are under significant pressure in the health service already.
“So we have to be mindful that the return of students is timetabled to happen in a period when the health service will be under any additional pressure.”
Six new coronavirus deaths in Tayside and Fife
Mr Swinney said the daily test positivity rate is 5.7%, down from 6.1% on Thursday.
Of the 56 Scottish deaths recorded in the past day, six occurred in Tayside and Fife.
Of this number, two were in Dundee, two were in Fife, one recorded in Angus and one in Perth and Kinross.
Aberdeenshire recorded 25 new cases, with no new deaths. Aberdeen has 15 new cases, Highland eight additional positive results, Moray three and Na h-Eileanan Siar two. No new deaths were recorded in any of these areas.
No new cases have been recorded in Orkney and Shetland.
Of the new cases, 433 are in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 267 in Lanarkshire, and 163 in Lothian.
There are 1,228 people in hospital confirmed to have the virus, a rise of 21 in 24 hours. Of these patients, 96 are in intensive care, down by two.
The death toll of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days is now 3,244.