Humza Yousaf has urged protesters to “think very carefully about their behaviours” as he acknowledged the risk that COP26 could increase the spread of Covid-19.
Scotland’s health secretary made the remarks as he provided an update to MSPs at the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday.
Yousaf explained that the situation with the virus “remains precarious” as he called on those taking part in any demonstrations to consider the potential for spreading the virus and the impact on health services.
“Cases remain much lower than the previous peak around the start of September, but the decline in new cases has halted in recent weeks, and at around 2500 new cases per day, it is still level well above previous lows,” he told MSPs.
“There are early signs that case numbers may increase again hereafter, so the situation remains precarious.
“As you would expect, the Scottish Government continues to explore all options for how it will respond to the evolving pandemic.
“We will not hesitate to strengthen the protective measures in place if it proves necessary to do so.
“The uncertainty and risk we face as winter progresses means now is certainly not the time to relax our approach.
“We all need to redouble our efforts to adhere to the protective measures in place.”
Yousaf said that pressures on health and social care services is likely to intensify during the winter period.
He told Holyrood: “Our health and social care services have been dealing with demand usually only experienced in winter for many months already.
“Facing these challenges, health and care staff on the frontline continue to give their all to keep us safe, and I want to take this opportunity to reiterate my appreciation and gratitude for their enduring efforts.
“Pressures are however likely to intensify during the winter. Bonfire night is this week and we expect that protests and demonstrations are taking place and they’ll continue to take place during COP26.
“Scotland rightly has a strong tradition of peaceful protest and demonstration. I do however want to take this opportunity to encourage everyone to think very carefully about their behaviours and their impact on services, as well as the risk of spreading the virus to others.”
He added: “Of course while public health measures can mitigate the spread of Covid-19 to an extent, there remains a risk that COP26 could increase the spread of the virus.
“That is why Covid-19 continues to be closely monitored by all relevant agencies and why the Scottish Government will be closely involved in operational decisions during the event.”