Glasgow will remain under level three coronavirus restrictions for another week, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Friday.
Speaking at a daily coronavirus briefing, Sturgeon said case numbers in Glasgow are “uncomfortably high” and it would be “premature” to move Glasgow out of level three immediately.
She said the incident management team will support a move to level two by the end of next week if the situation shows signs of improvement – meaning Glasgow would move to level two on Saturday, June 5.
“There are some early signs that the situation is stabilising in Glasgow,” the First Minister said.
But she added: “Weighing up all of these different factors is inevitably really difficult – case numbers in Glasgow… are uncomfortably high, but we are seeing signs of progress.
“The view of the national incident management team is two-fold. Firstly, that it would be premature to move Glasgow out of level three immediately this week while the situation remains so fragile.
“However, and secondly, if incidence continues to stabilise and assuming levels of hospitalisation remain reasonably stable, the incident management team has made clear to me that they would support a move to level two from the end of next week.”
Sturgeon said case numbers are rising across the country, adding they have increased by more than a quarter in the past week and by more than double since the early part of May.
The First Minister said Friday’s new cases of Covid-19 represent the largest daily number since March 25, adding that some of that can be accounted for by increased testing.
She also said the R number could be as high as 1.3, significantly driven by the situation in Glasgow and the Indian variant, which now accounts for 50 percent or more of daily cases.
The increase in cases is concentrated in younger age groups, she said, indicating that vaccination is having a protective effect.
Sturgeon will confirm to Parliament on Tuesday whether the rest of mainland Scotland will move from level two to level one as planned on June 7. She will confirm whether Glasgow can move to level two by Wednesday at the latest.
“My message to the people of Glasgow is don’t lose heart, on the contrary, take heart from the progress that we are seeing,” she said.
“I live in Glasgow, so I know how hard this is from my own personal life, but please continue to help with all of the public health efforts that are in place because if we continue to do this then we will make that move down from level three to level two and then after that hopefully get back on track and down the levels further.”
Glasgow is the only part of Scotland under level three lockdown rules, prohibiting non-essential travel out of the area and imposing greater restrictions on socialising, hospitality and businesses.
The daily Covid-19 statistics on Friday revealed 234 new cases in the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board area.
Meanwhile, Glasgow city’s seven-day positive rate is still three times above the national average.
Between May 19 and May 25, there were 2767 new cases of the virus in Scotland, 858 of those in Glasgow. The city has a seven-day case rate of 135.5 new infections per 100,000 of the population.
Sturgeon said earlier this week that “very good progress” has been made in Glasgow, with vaccines rolled out to younger people and a drop in hospital cases.
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said there had been an “unusual amount of cancellations and non-attendances for vaccinations” and that this was being investigated.
Labour leader Anas Sarwar said the news about Glasgow staying in level three was “disappointing”.
He said: “We need a clear exit plan, not perpetual lockdown. The First Minister’s Covid statement should have been made in Parliament, not a TV studio, so that it could be scrutinised by local elected members.
“Glaswegians shouldn’t have to wait for a TV press conference on a Friday to hear of their fate from Monday.”
Former Conservative MSP Adam Tomkins, a constitutional lawyer at the University of Glasgow, said the decision was “disproportionate” and said legal action may need to be taken.
He said: “A reminder that emergency powers to control us in the time of Covid were introduced to protect the NHS being overwhelmed. With 90 people in hospital with Covid and six (people) in intensive care (across all Scotland), continuing to hold Glasgow in level three is, in my view, disproportionate.
“Emergency powers are for emergencies. There is no public health emergency at the moment, thanks to the extraordinary efforts of vaccination teams across the country. Using emergency powers when there is no emergency is prima facie unlawful.
“Already the Scottish ministers have been found to have acted unlawfully in keeping places of worship closed. If Holyrood will not stand up to the abuse of emergency powers, legal action will have to be taken again.
“The law here is clear: public health restrictions on our fundamental rights and liberties are lawful only where they are the ‘least restrictive available means’ for keeping the NHS safe. I cannot see how that test is met in Glasgow at the moment.”
Friday’s Glasgow update comes as Scotland recorded two more deaths and 641 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours.
The death toll under the daily measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – now stands at 7668.
Sturgeon said 234,312 people have now tested positive for the virus and the daily test positivity rate is 2.6%, up from 1.8% the previous day.
A total of 90 people were in hospital yesterday with recently confirmed Covid-19, up seven, with six patients in intensive care, up two.
So far, 3,196,051 people have received the first dose of a Covid-19 vaccination, up 21,244, and 1,971,006 have received their second dose, up 28,721.
Meanwhile, Glasgow Chamber of Commerce chief executive Stuart Patrick called for an immediate increase in business support funding to “ensure business viability and protect jobs and livelihoods”.
He said: “With the rest of the country in level two, Glasgow is at a significant competitive disadvantage. Businesses still allowed to open have lost up to 80% of their trade due to travel restrictions blocking access to customers from neighbouring local authorities.”
Donald MacLeod, managing director of Hold Fast Entertainment, which owns The Garage and the Cathouse nightclubs in the city centre, described the decision as “another full on slap in the face ahead of the bank holiday weekend.
Pubs and restaurants in Glasgow have been prevented from serving alcohol indoors since last October.
Stephen Montgomery, spokesperson for the Scottish Hospitality Group, said: “All that’s going to happen is people will continue to travel outside Glasgow city centre, further spreading the virus. We already know that’s happening.
“So, if things are really that bad that there needs to be this continued lockdown, then this is a counter-productive move and makes no sense as far as the government’s policy is concerned.
“We firmly believe the approach based on case numbers is largely irrelevant now. It’s admissions and other hospital data that should be used and it’s great to see that those are remaining at a very low level.
“With the vaccine roll-out and all the preventative measures that the government has had us put in place, it should be possible to remove Glasgow from these unfair restrictions now.
“It is quite staggering to think that the plan for the (Euro) fan zone at Glasgow Green is in full swing, but here we have a situation where (the) Scottish Government thinks that keeping Glasgow City in level three and throwing hospitality businesses a pitiful £750 per week is acceptable.”