Coronavirus: Gatherings of 500 or more set to be banned

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says she is 'minded' to ban mass gatherings as of next week.

Sturgeon: 'Sharp rise' in cases expected today. STV
Sturgeon: 'Sharp rise' in cases expected today.

Nicola Sturgeon has said she is “minded” to ban gatherings of 500 people or more as of next week amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The First Minister said the move would be aimed at aiding national resilience by protecting frontline services.

Speaking at First Minister’s Questions on Thursday, she said she would be advising the cancellations to start from Monday.

Ahead of a Cobra meeting with other UK leaders on Thursday afternoon, where it is anticipated the UK as a whole will move to the delay phase of tackling Covid-19, Sturgeon said no decision has yet been made to close schools and universities in Scotland.

It comes after the Republic of Ireland closed all schools, colleges and childcare facilities.

So far, there are 36 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Scotland, but Sturgeon told MSPs to expect a “sharp rise” in that number when the Scottish Government publishes its daily 2pm update.

As of Wednesday, UK-wide there have been 460 cases with eight deaths.

On mass gatherings, the First Minister said expert advice did not suggest banning them had any “significant impact” in slowing the spread of Covid-19.

But she added: “Mass gatherings are required to be policed, they require to have emergency ambulance cover, they require the services of our voluntary health services, and at a time when we need to be reducing the pressures on these frontline workers in order to free them up on the significant challenge that lies ahead, I do think it is inappropriate that we continue as normal.

“That is principally to protect the resilience of our front-line workers, and we will continue to take decisions in collaboration with the other nations of the UK around issues like schools in the future, but driven very much by the scientific advice.”

Responding to Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw, Sturgeon said the 2pm update may also show “further evidence of community transmission of coronavirus”.

“That underlines the seriousness of the situation we are all facing,” the FM added.

It comes after the first case of community transmission on Wednesday, which means it is unrelated to contact with a known case or travel in a coronavirus-affected part of the world.

The Scottish Government’s national clinical director Jason Leitch had said previously that community transmission of Covid-19 would be a “trigger” for the move from the contain phase to the delay phase.

The Archdiocese of Glasgow has cancelled the Irish Mass planned for Saturday at St Andrew’s Cathedral.

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