The First Minister has said she cannot rule out a further extension of Aberdeen’s lockdown measures, as she announced new legal powers to tackle the spread of the virus in hospitality venues.
Nicola Sturgeon said that while she did not want to “speculate” ahead of the formal review of the restrictions on Wednesday, a further extension had not been ruled out.
It comes as Scotland’s national clinical director, Jason Leitch, said it could take another week to 10 days for the infection curve to “bend” in the NHS Grampian health board area.
Speaking during the Scottish Government’s daily coronavirus briefing on Friday, the First Minister announced a range of new laws to tackle outbreaks in the hospitality industry, following the Aberdeen pub cluster.
From today, it is mandatory for restaurants, hotels, cafes and bars to collect the contact details of visitors to their premises in support of Test and Protect.
The new regulations will include customers, staff working on a particular day and visitors such as delivery drivers and cleaners.
Pubs and restaurants should not serve customers who refuse to provide these details.
The First Minister also announced there should be no background music and televisions should be on mute and subtitled to avoid people having to “shout to be heard”, as this presents an increased risk of transmission.
The Scottish Government is still considering whether it is “practical” to apply a “legal framework” around the issue of pub crawls but is is “not an easy thing to do”, Ms Sturgeon admitted.
The First Minister described pubs as being “at the centre” of the Aberdeen cluster but added she could not say with certainty whether this was caused or exacerbated by revellers going from one bar to another.
She added: “It strikes me, from the non-clinical perspective, it makes some sense. If you’re going to one pub where there is a transmission risk and immediately going to another, you are quickly spreading that risk and making that greater than it would otherwise be.
“Visiting lots of pubs in a single day or evening massively increases the workload of test and protect, so please think about that – it makes a really big difference if you stay in one pub.”
There will be further restrictions on hospitality venues, banning queuing both inside and out except for takeaway products and for “unavoidable” safety reasons.
Speaking during Friday’s Scottish Government briefing, Prof Leitch said Melbourne provides the “best recent example”, citing that it took four weeks of a six-week lockdown in order to “bend the curve” of infection.
He added that while the curve has “slowed” in Grampian, the rate of infection has not yet begun to fall in terms of an overall trend.
Scotland’s national clinical director added: “I am not surprised we are still seeing numbers related to this Aberdeen cluster and I’m hopeful as we see that de-acceleration we will then see that curve bend in the next week to 10 days but I cannot guarantee it so that’s why we continue with lockdown restrictions.”
A total of 328 cases have been identified in Grampian since July 26 and 198 cases have so far been linked to the Aberdeen outbreak associated with pubs and other nearby venues, with 1,032 close contacts being identified so far.
The NHS Grampian area accounted for 28 of the 65 new confirmed cases in Scotland overnight, taking the total to 19,238 across Scotland, with a further two cases attributed to an outbreak in Orkney.
The First Minister also confirmed that nine cases were recorded in Glasgow and a further 12 in North Lanarkshire, related to a cluster in north-east Glasgow.
When asked if Aberdeen could see its lockdown measures extended for a third week, the First Minister said: “All I can say is, I can’t rule that out but I hope we’ll be able to lift these restrictions as soon as possible.
“We will formally review them next Wednesday and give the outcome of that.”