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North-east warned to learn the ‘lessons of Leicester’ and back safety measures

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A north-east public health boss has urged people to learn “the lesson of Leicester” as he voiced support for the roads upheaval underway in Aberdeen and towns across Aberdeenshire.

NHS Grampian’s Chris Littlejohn has warned resistance to the physical distancing measures being put in place could risk a regional lockdown.

The deputy public health director has urged the public to embrace the safety measures introduced as part of the Spaces For People scheme, saying “it is not enough” to rely on treatment, testing and contact tracing.

The first local lockdown was imposed in part of Leicester late on Monday, forcing schools and non-essential shops to close once again.

The Midlands city had 10% of all positive cases in the country at the start of the week, according to UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

In the north-east, both councils have access Scottish Government-backed grants to overhaul streets in the name of physical distancing.

Although controversial among some businesses due to its rapid roll-out in Aberdeen city centre, health chiefs have backed the physical distancing measures put in place.

The Market Street to Bridge Street stretch of Union Street has been closed to all traffic, pavements have been widened and a bus gate installed at the bottom end of the Granite Mile, while one-way systems and closures have been imposed elsewhere.

Changes have also resulted in the narrowing of Victoria Road in Torry, with more expected to follow in Rosemount Place, George Street and at the beach.

In Aberdeenshire, measures are being introduced in Banchory, Ellon, Fraserburgh, Inverurie, Peterhead and Stonehaven.

Together, the two authorities have been given more than £2 million on the project.

Mr Littlejohn warned city councillors earlier this week the virus “is not gone” despite the lockdown easing.

He said: “Cities in particular are at risk, more so than rural areas because of population density and mixing.

“And Aberdeen is a particularly interesting case because of the national and international flow of staff in oil and gas.

“What does the future look like? Is it local lockdown? What is the lesson of Leicester?

“As we move into the new future we must think of the risk of local lockdowns and their economic impact.

“NHS Grampian has all its ducks in a row in relation to treatment, testing and contact tracing – but it’s not enough.

“The further apart we can stay from each other the less the chance of transmission.”

Council bosses are to ask the Scottish Government for more money to change road layouts in the city, on top of an existing £1.76 million grant.

The urgent business committee unanimously agreed officials should approach transport body Sustrans for the funding to cover the cost of proposed Spaces For People work around schools and to remove it all when safety advice changes, having been assured councillors would be kept informed on plans.

Council co-leader Jenny Laing said: “At the end of the day it’s about the well-being and safety of people in Aberdeen.

“As we look towards the recovery we need to ensure we are doing as much as we can to unlock and open Aberdeen up again.

“Our economy is dependent on businesses being able to operate and people moving about the city in a safe way.

“With the efforts to open up schools to deliver on the government’s commitment on August opening we will need to look at interventions around schools and public buildings.

“And when we come to the point where the measures shall be lifted, there was no funding in the original grant application to cover that.”

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