What is going on with coronavirus cases and tests?

Recent Covid-19 case numbers in Scotland have been higher than ever.

Coronavirus: Testing has gradually ramped up over the months. SNS
Coronavirus: Testing has gradually ramped up over the months.

Recent daily coronavirus case figures in Scotland have not made for pleasant reading.

Looking at the hard numbers, it would appear as though the country’s Covid-19 epidemic is spreading worse than ever.

Three days so far this week saw new records set for the most coronavirus cases reported in a 24-hour period – 486 on Wednesday, 558 on Friday and 714 on Saturday.

Faced with this barrage of numbers every day, numbers which are so often now very large, it can be hard for the public to know what to make of them and to place them in context.

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A major part of that context is Covid-19 testing – and if cases have risen in recent weeks and months, then so have daily tests, and in a very substantial way.

None of this is simple and these days the Scottish Government’s publicly-available spreadsheets on the epidemic are plastered with notes, caveats and revisions.

Making sense of it, thankfully, is possible.

A brief history of testing

When the pandemic first began in the UK in late February to March, the country did not have the capacity for mass testing and tracing that other nations either had ready or quickly built up.

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Perhaps the UK, and Scotland by extension, could have built up that capacity rapidly as others did – but on March 12, we decided not to.

It was felt the coronavirus outbreak had already spread too widely in the community by then for the conventional public health approach of testing, tracing and isolating all cases to work.

Scotland ‘should have continued mass testing in March’ Read now

At the time, unlike now, people with symptoms were simply told to stay home for seven days to try to get better.

Generally speaking, only those whose condition deteriorated to the point of needing hospital treatment were tested.

This meant that as Scotland’s epidemic peaked during the month of April, in fact the country was only testing an average of about 1300 people per day – and sometimes considerably less.

That’s peanuts compared to the figures posted most days now.

Meanwhile, the Scottish and UK governments were building up their testing capacities, albeit not as quickly as some would have liked.

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Their chief weapon was the new UK Government-managed regional testing network, with Scottish centres predominantly based at the country’s airports.

But this separate branch of testing data caused all sorts of havoc for those updating the Scottish Government’s spreadsheets, with huge gluts of test results dumped on them in mid-June which dated back months.

And then again, in early July, a whole tranche of backlogged data related to home testing kits and care home tests was belatedly added to the daily totals, meaning test figures in Scotland suddenly skyrocketed.

Since then, we’ve been consistently looking at far higher testing numbers than at any previous point in the pandemic.

Testing has fallen back but remains relatively high. (Chart: STV News – Source: Health Protection Scotland)

They peaked in late August and early September, with the country seeing nearly 30,000 tests carried out on a number of days, testing around 16,000 Scots each time.

Since then, however, those figures have fallen back quite a bit, to an average of around 17,000 daily tests in September – or about 7400 people tested per day.

The difference between daily tests and newly-tested people is to do with the amount of individuals who are being repeat-tested, for example, care home workers.

The reasons for the drop-off in testing in recent weeks – given the government’s insistence it is pressing ahead in boosting capacity – aren’t entirely clear, but could be to do with problems the UK test booking portal has been having in meeting rising demand.

But nonetheless, the ramping-up of testing over time is unmistakeable in the statistics.

About 14% of Scots have now been tested for Covid. (Chart: STV News – Source: Health Protection Scotland)

On August 4, fewer than 375,000 people in Scotland had been tested for coronavirus.

As of Friday, three quarters of a million Scots (about 14% of the population) have been tested – doubling the figure in just seven weeks.

The positivity rate

As that first testing graph above showed, total tests conducted as well as the number of people tested can vary quite dramatically day-to-day.

Nicola Sturgeon says she now looks first each morning at a different measure to gauge Covid’s prevalence in Scotland: the positivity rate.

This relates to the percentage of positive tests compared to the number of newly-tested people.

US president Donald Trump, with his tendency to say the quiet part out loud, once said he wanted to see less testing in America because it would catch fewer cases.

But the flipside of that is, if you’re testing a lot less but still finding a lot of cases, your positivity rate is going to go through the roof.

For example, when Scotland was still conducting only limited testing on April 18, and it saw 411 positive tests out of just 1596 people tested, the positivity rate was an eye-watering 26%.

Cases were a much higher proportion of overall tests back in April. (Chart: STV News – Source: Health Protection Scotland)

That’s why looking at the positivity measure is only useful if you have robust and consistent testing in place which aims to catch all suspected cases.

Provided such a system is in place, the World Health Organisation says a country is broadly keeping its epidemic under control if its positivity rate is under 5%.

Even when cases began to rise again in August, starting with the Aberdeen pubs cluster, Scotland’s positivity rate was keeping comfortably in the ballpark of 1%.

But that has started to change and change quickly in September as new outbreaks in the west of Scotland and around universities have gathered pace.

Scotland’s positivity rate keeps rising. (Chart: STV News – Source: Health Protection Scotland)

Last Saturday (September 19), the rate hit 5.3% and it has kept jumping all this week to reach 11.5% as of this Saturday.

That, as much if not more than the hard case numbers, will be of great concern to the First Minister and her advisers.

Second wave, or did it ever really go away?

Despite cases rising again in Scotland, the UK and indeed Europe after a spell where infections had been falling, some scientists are resistant to using the phrase a “second wave”.

A second wave, they argue, is when a virus returns, having perhaps mutated into a new strain.

The first wave of Covid-19, it is argued, never really left – we simply had it under lockdown along with the rest of us.

On first glance, this daily cases graph would suggest we’re dealing with a second wave, or a second spike, or whatever you want to call it, that is spreading more virulently than the first.

Cases have soared in September. (Chart: STV News – Source: Health Protection Scotland)

But the truth is, it’s far too early to say that with any certainty.

For starters, comparing September to April, we’re testing nearly six times more people on average than we did then.

It stands to reason that at the peak of the first wave of coronavirus in Scotland, we were missing hundreds, perhaps thousands of daily cases due to the more limited testing regime.

And at the spring peak, it is believed the R number of Covid-19 in Scotland – the number of people each infected person was infecting – could have been anything from four to as high as six.

At the moment, the government estimates the R number in Scotland is between 1.2 and 1.6.

Anything above one is grounds for concern, because it means the epidemic is growing rather than shrinking.

But it indicates officials do not – yet – think the virus is spreading in quite the same exponential way as it was five or six months ago.

Rally held in George Square to highlight Glasgow ‘waste crisis’

A day of action was held on Saturday.

STV News
There are calls for the recruitment of 100 new road sweepers and 100 new refuse collectors.

Bags of rubbish have been dumped outside of Glasgow City Council as part of a day of action calling for more investment to tackle the city’s “waste crisis”.

Campaigners from the GMB Union and Living Rent held a rally in George Square on Saturday.

They have called for the recruitment of 100 new road sweepers and 100 new refuse collectors, as well as the reduction of agency staff to less than 5%.

They are also calling for an end to the bulk uplift charge and the re-introduction of back court teams.

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The rubbish dumped in George Square was collected by action teams from different streets and backcourts in Govanhill, Govan, Partick and Dennistoun, as evidence of what they say is the council’s “neglect”.

People gather in George Square as part of the rally. (STV News)

Living Rent Dennistoun branch Chair Caroline Robertson insisted that cleansing services and communities need properly funded public services.

She said: “As COP26 approaches and the eyes of the world are on Glasgow, communities in the east end need to make GCC clean up its act and invest in more clenny workers to keep our streets clean.

“GCC ‘sprucing up’ Glasgow and passing responsibility for street cleaning onto communities to impress tourist heads of state is utterly insulting.”

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Robertson added: “Clenny workers have been essential before the pandemic, during and will continue to be. They’re fighting an uphill battle to keep streets clean.

“Cleansing services and communities need properly funded public services.

“This isn’t just Glasgow City Council’s problem. If the money isn’t there, then the Scottish Government needs to ensure it is. Glasgow’s MSPs can’t be allowed to pass the buck.”


Where can I go as Glasgow roads start closing for COP26?

Everything you need to know about travelling around Glasgow during the UN climate conference.

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Parts of Glasgow will start locking down on Saturday ahead of the COP26 United Nations climate conference.

The summit is being held at the Scottish Event Campus on the banks of the River Clyde from October 31 to November 12.

But residents and commuters are being warned to expect delays across the city from this weekend.

So, where are you allowed to go as COP26 takes over Glasgow?

Road closures

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The scale of the event in Glasgow is unprecedented and the council has warned people that roads will be “extremely busy”.

The city’s motorway network – including the M8, M77 and M74 – are all at risk of major congestion.

And the Clydeside Expressway, which normally sees around 100,000 vehicles each day, will be closed between Partick and Anderston from October 23 to November 15.

Official alternative routes involve drivers using some of the busiest roads in the city by going through the Clyde Tunnel, parallel to the Expressway on Dumbarton Road and Argyle Street, or Great Western Road, through Charing Cross.

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Stobcross Road, which runs between the Expressway and the SEC, has already been closed due to works, and will not open again until November 21.

Get Ready Glasgow via GCC
Red shows areas at risk of congestion with roads expected to be significantly busier than usual on the first day of the conference.

Pressure is expected to be diverted on to the A739 Clyde Tunnel, which runs north to south under the river, as well as Paisley Road West, Great Western Road and Dumbarton Road.

The disruption from COP26 comes on top of traffic chaos already being caused by the ongoing repairs to the M8 Woodside Viaduct north of the city centre.

Get Ready Glasgow via Glasgow City Council
Alternate routes for the COP26 road closures from October 23 until November 15.

COP26 road closures in full

  • Congress Road, closed from 6am, October 10, until 6am, November 17.
  • Congress Way, Finnieston Quay, Tunnel Street, Stobcross Road (section parallel to A814) and Castlebank Street, subject to lane restrictions and closures between October 17 and 23, with full closure from 9pm on October 24 until 6am on November 21.
  • Clyde Arc (Squinty Bridge) and Lancefield Quay, closed from 9pm on October 23 until 6am on November 15. The roads will be open to service buses only.
  • Finnieston Street, from Houldsworth Street to Lancefield Quay, closed from 9pm on October 24 until 6am on November 15. Local Access southbound will be maintained until October 28.
  • Clydeside Expressway, from Partick Interchange to Anderston (Junction 19), closed from 9pm on October 23, until 6am on November 15.
  • Minerva Street and West Greenhill Place, closed from 6am on October 28, until 6am on November 13, with local access to private carparks maintained.
Get Ready Glasgow via GCC
COP26 Road Closures: SEC and Finnieston
Get Ready Glasgow via GCC
COP26 Road Closures: Partick and Transport Museum
Get Ready Glasgow via GCC
COP26 Road Closures: Anderston and M8

Can I still ride my bike?

Cycling is encouraged during the summit, but pedestrian and cycle routes around the SEC will be affected, with campaigners arguing that the closures go against the ethos of the conference.

Glasgow City Council has suspended public access around the venue – the site covering Finnieston and Pacific Quay, Millennium and Bells bridges and a number of paths will be out of bounds from October 21 to November 19.

Access will banned from the following routes:

  • C93E (Millennium Bridge)
  • C93F (Bells Bridge)
  • Part of C93 (Clyde Walkway (North) between Beith Way and Finnieston Street)
  • Part of C93A (between Finnieston Quay and Minerva Street)
  • C93C (between the Riverside Museum and Stobcross Road)
  • Part of C109 (Clyde Walkway (South) at Pacific Quay)
  • Part of C54A (Expressway Overbridge at Anderston)
  • Part of C54B (M8 Overbridge at Anderston)
  • River Kelvin ‘Core Path on Water’ at Kelvin Harbour

Will public transport be running?

The conference will be disrupted by rail strikes after members of the RMT union backed industrial action.

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ScotRail workers will strike from November 1 to 12 amid a dispute over pay and conditions.

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RMT members on the Caledonian Sleeper service, which is run by Serco, will also strike from October 31 to November 2 and from November 11 to 13.

Sunday train services in Scotland have been crippled for months as workers protest over pay and conditions.

Are tourist attractions open?

Glasgow Life, which runs the city’s culture and leisure venues, is closing six sites to “minimise disruption” during COP26.

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, the Riverside Transport Museum and the Gallery of Modern Art will be closed throughout the conference.

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Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum


Kelvin Hall will also be closed from October 28 to November 1 and Kelvingrove Lawn Bowls and Tennis Centre will also be shut from October 31 to November 2.


People urged to stay away from A&E unless condition ‘life-threatening’

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has made the call as health boards across the country face continued pressure due to Covid.

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NHSGGC: The health board is urging people to stay away from A&E unless their condition is 'life-threatening'.

A top doctor at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde is urging people to stay away from A&E unless their “condition is life-threatening”.

The call comes as the Covid pandemic continues to put NHS boards across the country under massive pressure.

Earlier this week, NHS Lanarkshire moved to its highest risk level – dubbed ‘code black’ – which has seen the health board postpone scheduled hospital treatments, including some cancer procedures.

NHS Lanarkshire, NHS Borders and NHS Grampian recently requested help from the armed forces. Soldiers are also providing support to the Scottish Ambulance Service.

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On Saturday, NHSGGC said that over a seven-day period, 32% of the people who attended Queen Elizabeth University Hospital’s emergency department did so with “minor injuries and issues” including sprained ankles, lower back pain, cut fingers and bruising.

Scott Davidson, deputy medical director for NHSGGC, said: “We want to thank all of our staff for their continuing commitment to our patients, their families and their colleagues during this unprecedented time.

“Unfortunately, our emergency departments are still seeing people who do not need to be there, with minor ailments such as dental pain, urinary tract infections, sore throats of less than one day, period pain, cuts and scrapes.

“Attending A&E with these minor conditions not only adds to the pressure facing our staff but also impacts on waiting times.

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“We would urge everyone that, unless their condition is life-threatening, they should not attend an emergency department.”

Those in any doubt over who they should contact are being urged to call NHS 24 on 111.

Dr Davidson added: “If necessary you will be given an onward referral to our Flow Navigation Centre Team, who will call you back and undertake a virtual consultation.

“This can be undertaken in your own home and may mean the condition can be treated without you leaving home.

“Should you need to attend an emergency department, the team will instruct you to do so.

“Our partner GP surgeries across the board area are open, and the GP out-of-hours service for urgent problems, over the weekend, can also be accessed by calling 111.

“Pharmacies also have expert knowledge and can advise on minor ailments, or give simple healthcare advice.

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“I would like to thank members of the public who have continued to use 111 to access the correct care for their support and understanding during what continues to be a challenging time for everyone.”

Firefighters called to reports of tenement blaze

The alarm was raised at around 7.30pm.

PA Media
There were no reports of any injuries.

Firefighters have been called to reports of a blaze in the west end of Glasgow.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service said three fire engines and a high reach appliance went to the scene on Byres Road when the alarm was raised at around 7.30pm on Saturday.

Firefighters could be seen in flats on the first to third floors of the tenement building where they appeared to be opening windows.

An ambulance was also at the scene of the incident, which was at the junction with Havelock Street.

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There were no reports of any injuries.


Weather warning as heavy rain expected to drench parts of Scotland

The Met Office has issued a yellow alert from 9pm on Saturday through to 9am on Sunday.

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Rain: The Met Office has issued a yellow alert from 9pm on Saturday through to 9am on Sunday.

Heavy rain is expected to drench parts of Scotland this weekend.

The Met Office has issued a yellow weather warning, with Scots urged to prepare for travel disruption and flooding.

The downpour is expected between 9pm on Saturday and 9am on Sunday.

Dumfries and Galloway, Lanarkshire, Ayrshire, Glasgow, Argyll and Bute, Renfrewshire and Stirling are likely to see most of the bad weather.

Met Office via Website
Saturday and Sunday: The weather warning for rain.
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The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) has so far issued seven flood alerts.

Experts have warned that homes and businesses could flood due to the rainfall.

Spray and sudden flooding could also lead to difficult driving conditions.

The Met Office said: “Persistent, heavy rain may lead to some disruption, especially to travel.”

Body found in search for missing Royal Conservatoire acting student

Police recovered Timothy Chiwaula's body from the River Clyde in Glasgow on Friday.

Police Scotland
Glasgow: Police recovered Timothy Chiwaula's body from the River Clyde on Friday.

The body of a missing Royal Conservatoire of Scotland student has been found.

Timothy Chiwaula, 23, was last seen in Glasgow’s Old Shettleston Road on Monday, October 11.

Police recovered his body from the River Clyde next to Glasgow Green on Friday.

The acting student’s family has been made aware.

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On Saturday, a Police Scotland spokesperson said: “Around 4am on Friday, October 22, police were called after the body of a man was discovered in the water next to Glasgow Green.

“The deceased has been formally identified as Timothy Chiwaula who had been reported missing from the Glasgow area. His family are aware.

“There are no suspicious circumstances surrounding the death and a report will be submitted to the Procurator Fiscal.

“The media and members of the public are thanked for their support during our investigation.”

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Professor Jeffrey Sharkey, RCS Principal: “We’re absolutely devastated to hear of Tim’s death and our thoughts are with his family, his friends and all those who knew and loved him.

“Within our community, Tim was known as a young man of warmth and great potential. He will be missed very much.

“This is a close-knit community and our focus now is ensuring our students and staff are supported as we all come to terms with this terrible news.”

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Care workers protest for £15 per hour wage outside Holyrood

GMB general secretary Gary Smith said members in the care sector would 'summon the spirit of the Glasgow women’s strike'.

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Health secretary Humza Yousaf earlier this month announced a pay rise for care staff.

Care workers and the GMB trade union rallied outside the Scottish Parliament on Saturday to call for a £15 per hour wage.

Health secretary Humza Yousaf earlier this month announced a pay rise for care staff, taking the minimum remuneration to £10.02 per hour as part of the winter plan for health and social care.

But unions and opposition politicians claimed the cash boost “isn’t nearly enough”.

Addressing the crowd in Edinburgh, GMB general secretary Gary Smith said members in the care sector would “summon the spirit of the Glasgow women’s strike” – which resulted in a historic payout from the council after years of underpaying female workers.

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“Pay is the priority in tackling the growing understaffing crisis and lifting the unsustainable pressures not just in social care, but in our NHS too – that’s why we are ‘fighting for fifteen’,” he said.

“We know the prospect of wages just above £10 an hour won’t cut it, and if you want to retain and recruit the people we need then we must value this essential work properly.

“After the awful events of this pandemic and with a bleak winter ahead, the consequences of continuing to neglect these key workers should be crystal clear to everyone.

“But if Government fails to recognise this then we will summon the spirit of the Glasgow women’s strike and start organising for industrial action across the care sector.”

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Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie voiced her support for the campaign, and attended the protest with a number of her colleagues.

“The pandemic has left us in no doubt of the incredible work social care staff do day in day out, but applause doesn’t pay the bills,” she said.

“The pitiful pay deal the SNP handed to carers last year is nothing short of disgraceful.

“As staffing shortages push the sector to breaking point, a pay rise is not just the right thing to do – it is the only thing to do.

“If the SNP are serious about building a real National Care Service, they can start by giving the workers at its heart a fair deal and paying them £15 an hour.”

The Scottish Government is consulting on a National Care Service which would bring all publicly owned adult social care services under one body – and could include other areas such as drug and alcohol care and children’s services.


Scottish Government hits out at RMT leadership after pay deal rejected

It comes after RMT confirmed that strikes during the COP26 summit will go ahead.

STV News
A pay offer of 4.7 per cent over two years, a £300 payment for COP26, and a rest day working enhancement has been made.

The Scottish Government has said it is “utterly perplexed” by the leadership of RMT over their “inability” to see that their members will lose out by being unwilling to resolve the rail dispute ahead of COP26.

It comes after the union confirmed that strikes during the UN climate summit will go ahead.

Talks were held on Friday between RMT and ScotRail, with the union accusing the train operating of “offering nothing of any consequence”.

A pay offer of 4.7% over two years, a £300 payment for COP26, and a rest day working enhancement has been made.

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However, RMT rejected the proposal without putting it before members, a move Transport Scotland described as “disappointing”.

It is understood that the deal has been accepted by ASLEF and TSSA, whilst Unite have recommended it to its members who are being balloted.

In a statement, a Scottish Government spokesperson welcomed the acceptance of the deal by the three unions, but accused RMT of letting its members down.

“For some weeks now, ScotRail has been in constructive discussion with the four Railway Trade Unions to negotiate a pay increase for 2021,” they said.

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“They have done so in good faith and with a willingness to hear unions’ concerns and seek, through collective bargaining, to reach a position acceptable to all but especially union members and all of ScotRail’s workforce.

“Three out of four unions have now accepted, or recommended acceptance, of the pay offer and two have done so by balloting their membership. That is welcomed hugely.”

They continued: “We were disappointed that the RMT rejected the offer. Having taken nearly two weeks to tell ScotRail they were rejecting the offer, ScotRail sought to return immediately to the table to focus on the area the RMT said publicly was their one remaining concern – rest day working. 

“An offer in this regard was made, the RMT undertook to consider it. We fully expected their representatives to return with a counter offer – that after all is the nature of negotiations – yet the RMT leadership rejected that offer out of hand and returned to the issue of pay.”

The spokesperson indicated that the matter can still be resolved, whilst hitting out at RMT over their stance.

They said: “We note the latest public statement by the RMT leadership; Scotrail remains ready to return to the negotiating table at any point this weekend to consider again the issue of allowances for rest day working.

“This matter can be resolved, allowing everyone who works for Scotland’s Railway to get on with preparing to welcome the world to Glasgow. 

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“We believe that’s what most of our railway employees want. We know a credible, good pay offer has been made that we think most ScotRail employees would want to accept. We hope that the RMT leadership will recognise this too.

“But at this point, we are utterly perplexed by the leadership’s inability to see that it is their members who stand to lose out, and that by its actions and unwillingness to seek meaningfully to resolve this matter, they are letting their members down.

“We don’t think anyone, including the membership of the RMT, wants to disrupt COP26 or the chance to showcase Scotland’s green, clean railway to a global audience. We hope that encompasses the RMT leadership too, although their approach to seeking resolution of matters does appear to call this into question.”

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Cat and kittens killed in flat fire as detectives launch inquiry

Officers are treating the blaze in Methil's Keir Hardie Street on Saturday morning as wilful.

© Google Maps 2020
Methil: The incident happened in Keir Hardie Street at around 4.15am on Saturday.

Detectives have launched an investigation after two kittens and a cat were killed in a flat fire.

Officers are treating the blaze in Methil, Fife, as wilful.

The incident happened in Keir Hardie Street at around 4.15am on Saturday.

Police said a 36-year-old woman left the flat at around 8pm on Friday and the property is believed to have been unoccupied after that time.

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Detective sergeant Clark Forrest, of Levenmouth CID, said: “Thankfully there were no injuries to anyone within the block of flats but the damage to the property and loss of the woman’s kittens and cat has been extremely distressing for her.

“We’re still trying to establish the full circumstances so I’m appealing to anyone who has any relevant information or witnessed anything suspicious in the early hours of Saturday morning, or perhaps the days leading up to the incident, to contact us.”

If you have any information, call 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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