The First Minister has revealed the country could move to more localised coronavirus restrictions to avoid “longer, more general lockdowns” across Scotland.
Nicola Sturgeon said she would “very much hope” that where localised outbreaks or clusters of infection occur it would be possible to have “effective localised measures” in place to contain the spread of the virus.
The first minister’s remarks follow a rise in coronavirus cases in Leicester, which means pubs, restaurants and hairdressers may be forced to stay closed for two more weeks.
Speaking during her daily briefing on Monday, Ms Sturgeon said that particular areas may have “some restrictions” in place for a “certain period of time” in a bid to contain the virus and prevent it “spreading over the country”.
If that were to happen, Scotland would face the prospect of “longer, more general lockdowns”, the First Minister added.
When asked whether local lockdowns would focus on the exact location of the outbreak, such as a care home or a workplace, or whether it would cover a whole area, such as a specific postcode, town or city, Ms Sturgeon said that would depend on the “nature of the outbreak”.
She said: “If you have an outbreak in a care home, or as has been the case in other parts of the UK and in other parts of Europe recently, an outbreak in a food processing plant, then clearly you try to limit any suppression measures to the particular location.
“If as, and I’m about to mention Leicester here and I do that with a degree of caution because I don’t know all the details of exactly what is happening there, but it seems from what I’ve read that it seems to be more of a raised level of community transmission; if you have that then any suppression measures may need to be more based on the whole locality you’re dealing with.”
Chief Medical Officer Dr Gregor Smith said during today’s briefing the government would look at more a “tailored response” in future, which would be aided by having more “granular data” at its disposal.
This might result in “outbreak management” around a particular institution or facility, or it might be on a “more geographical basis”, if there was evidence an outbreak had progressed into “sustained community transmission”.
The First Minister admitted that restrictions are never “easy to enforce” but said she was a “great believer that you get further in all this if you persuade people why you’re asking them to do things”.
She said that these “more individual or more community sacrifices” were for the “greater good” but added that she hopes the country continues to drive infection levels down so these localised measures do not prove necessary.
Local councils and health boards have indicated that any future requirements for local lockdown would be assessed by the Scottish Government and Public Health and are waiting on further guidance to be issued by the Scottish Government on the subject.
It comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson, during a visit to a construction site in west London on Monday, said he was “concerned” about the outbreak in Leicester, amid reports the city could be locked down.
The city’s mayor, Sir Peter Soulsby, heavily criticised the UK Government over its handling of the situation in the city, saying he needs to “be convinced” that an extension to the lockdown is necessary.
He said a Public Health England (PHE) report sent to him overnight had been “cobbled together” and “readily acknowledges” that cases are higher in Leicester due to higher levels of testing in the city.
Leicester has recorded 866 new cases of coronavirus in the last two weeks – leading to speculation over the weekend that the city would be locked down.