Health chief ‘worried’ by images of pub crowds in England

Professor Jason Leitch voiced his concerns after bars and restaurants were allowed to reopen south of the border.

The Scottish Government’s national clinical director has said images showing crowds of drinkers “spilling out into the street” in England over the weekend have “worried” him.

Professor Jason Leitch admitted he was “worried” by the images, after bars and restaurants were allowed to reopen to the public south of the border.

One picture from the Soho area of London showed streets packed with revellers with no visible social distancing.

Speaking on Good Morning Scotland on the day that beer gardens and other outdoor hospitality businesses are being allowed to reopen, Prof Leitch said he is comfortable with people being in a “regulated environment”, where they will have to give some personal details to the business owner before being allowed to enter.

But he added: “I am uncomfortable with hospitality just spilling out into the street with people drinking and socialising.”

Commenting on the scenes south of the border, Prof Leitch said: “They worried me, and you would expect that to be true, just as pictures of Bournemouth beach worried me as that bit of the puzzle got opened up again.”

Pictures from the Dorset seaside town showed thousands of people had flocked there following an easing of lockdown restrictions, prompting the local council and police force to declare a major incident in the area on June 25.

Asked if social distancing will be policed in Scotland when the weekend comes, Prof Leitch said: “I hope so. I hope a combination of business owners, the security that these businesses often employ, and enforcement from Police Scotland will be enough to help us manage that, as well as peer group policing.”

He added that it is important to allow parts of the economy to move again, but pointed to the lockdown announced overnight in Australia, which will see the state of New South Wales close its border with neighbouring Victoria after a spike in cases in its capital city.

Prof Leitch said: “What we’re trying to do here is open up the economy … but we have to do it in a way that gives us a reward in the end.

“You’ve seen that – even today – a pretty dramatic lockdown in Australia with them closing borders between states, and I’m trying to do everything I can in my advice to stop that.”

Addressing a cluster of cases identified in Annan and Gretna, near the border with England, last week, where 11 new infections were confirmed on Friday, the national clinical director said there has been no “dramatic change either upwards or downwards” in the number of cases, adding that it is “progressing well”.

He said: “The cluster, as we’re calling it, is being very well managed by the health protection teams on both sides of the border, they’ve been in constant touch.”

Prof Leitch said the decision to ease what is effectively a local lockdown in the area is “one step above his pay grade” and will be made by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Monday.

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