Coronavirus lockdown in Aberdeen extended by another week

Nicola Sturgeon said the 'reluctant' decision had been made as the city's outbreak is not 'completely under control'.

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The local coronavirus lockdown in Aberdeen will be extended by another week, the First Minister has confirmed.

Nicola Sturgeon said the Scottish Government had made the “reluctant” decision to the continue the restrictions into a third week.

She said she was “not yet in a position” to say the local Covid-19 outbreak in the city to say “is over or is completely under control”.

It means restaurants, pubs and cafes will remain closed for another seven days, while indoor gatherings between households and non-essential travel of more than five miles are also restricted.

But Sturgeon added a mid-week review of the measures will be conducted on Sunday, with a view to begin lifting the restrictions from next Wednesday.

She also said businesses in the city will be able to benefit from an “immediate” £1m support fund.

However, Aberdeen City Council hit out at the Scottish Government’s decision, saying it is harming the city’s reputation and local economy.

Council leaders state the local outbreak is now under “adequate control” and have called for restrictions to be lifted on Saturday.

It added the fortnight of local lockdown has hammered the retail sector with a 60% drop in high street footfall, despite shops remaining open.

The measures were put in place following a cluster of cases identified in early August affecting a number of city pubs.

Since July 26, nearly 400 coronavirus infections have been identified in the NHS Grampian region, with 226 associated with the Aberdeen pubs cluster.

The First Minister said there is “some evidence that the original cluster linked to bars and nightlife is now being contained”.

But she said other smaller clusters and community cases had emerged in Aberdeen since, with there still being “some volatility” in daily cases.

Of the 50 new infections recorded in Scotland on Wednesday, 15 came from the Grampian region, a jump on the seven cases reported the day before.

Meanwhile, there are ten new cases in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, three in Lanarkshire and 12 in Tayside – all areas hit by recent local clusters.

A total of 248 Scots are in hospital with coronavirus, a drop of six on Tuesday.

Of those, just two patients are in intensive care, one fewer.

But cases have been climbing in recent weeks and Sturgeon said it was “not yet safe” to lift the local lockdown that has been imposed in Aberdeen.

She said, however, that she hoped to be able to lift the restrictions for “lower-risk premises”, such as non-licensed cafes, from next Wednesday.

Speaking at the daily coronavirus briefing, the First Minister said while the situation in Aberdeen was “undoubtedly improving” she was not “in a position to say that this outbreak is over or completely under control”.

Aberdeen City Council’s co-leaders disputed this, saying it was safe enough to lift lockdown measures in the city.

Councillor Jenny Laing said: “At our meeting with Scottish Government officials yesterday we heard from the local Covid-19 outbreak incident management team that they believed the situation is now under adequate control and mitigation measures can be put in place to allow lower risk settings to open on Saturday subject to site specific assessments.

“I can confirm that the council is ready to make these site-specific assessments to allow businesses to open.”

“It is apparent that Covid-19 has already had a significant impact on our local economy and continuing with the current restrictions is only going to make a bad economic situation even worse.”

She added: “The perception and reputation of Aberdeen is being damaged the longer this goes on and as the incident management team has shown with proper safeguards in place Aberdeen can and should be allowed to begin lifting the restrictions.”

Councillor Douglas Lumsden said: “The First Minister must be aware of the harm extending the lockdown is doing to both our citizens and our economy.

“Evidence shows that Aberdeen has been disproportionately affected by Covid-19 and using PACE notifications, it shows there are 5100 jobs at risk of redundancy from 70 employers, across various sectors, including hospitality.

“This is the highest in Scotland, and three times the level of the second-ranked authority area (Aberdeenshire, 1800 posts).”