Nicola Sturgeon has revealed if Aberdeen were a separate country, Scotland would be considering adding it to the quarantine list – and that’s why she had to extend the local lockdown.
The first minister was yesterday forced to defend her decision to prolong the restrictions in the city into a third week.
The Scottish Government’s local lockdown in the Granite City – including the forced closure of pubs, cafes and restaurants and a ban on indoor gatherings and travelling more than five miles for leisure purposes – was extended on Wednesday.
Ms Sturgeon immediately faced accusations of having ignored the advice of local medical experts on an incident management team (IMT), who it is claimed recommended the prohibitions be lifted from tomorrow.(SAT)
There is hope this will be a last week of the regional lockdown, after the government scheduled a midweek review for Sunday to try and firm up the timetable for opening up the city.
At Holyrood today, North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald pressed the first minister to reveal what the level of coronavirus would have to be in Aberdeen before the restrictions ended.
Ms Sturgeon said she “fervently wishes these judgements were as simple as that”.
She said: “The IMT thinks the pub-associated cluster is certainly firmly coming under control and may be under control.
“The concern expressed very strongly to me, and which formed the basis of the advice by the chief medical officer and the national clinical director, is there are still a significant number of cases in Grampian and Aberdeen that are not evidently associated with the cluster.
“There is still a concern of a wider community-based prevalence there.
“On Wednesday the figure for Aberdeen of the non-cluster related cases was over 20 per 100,000 –the figure for the whole of Scotland over the last seven days has been around six per 100,000.
“It is coming down but to give context: around 20 per 100,000 is when we would be imposing, if that was another country, quarantine restrictions.
“So what we will want to see is that figure coming down and I hope after the review on Sunday we will be able to set out a firm timetable for the lifting of the various restrictions in place.”
Since July 26, 407 people have tested positive for coronavirus in Grampian, 237 of those being linked to the cluster traced through Aberdeen’s bars.
NHS Grampian has refused to release the briefings prepared for the government ahead of a key meeting of its resilience committee meeting on Wednesday morning.
But the health board confirmed the IMT was in support of the first minister’s “precautionary approach”.
Business leaders revealed “disappointment and surprise” at the lockdown extension, with a warning more than 5,000 jobs were currently at risk of redundancy in Aberdeen.
The newly formed trade group Aberdeen Hospitality Together called for clarity on the continued lockdown measures, warning it was causing “tremendous damage” to the city’s reputation while the industry took a “battering”.
A spokeswoman added: “This closure is having very serious impact on our local economy and leaving many businesses on a knife-edge.”
As lockdown was extended the Scottish Government unveiled a £900,000 relief fund for pubs, restaurants and cafes forced to close.
The city council, which is administering the funding, announced applications were now open for all businesses made to close.
Linked to the business rates system, smaller firms will be eligible for £1,000 grants while top rates payers will get £1,500.
A further £100,000 is to be shared, at the discretion of the council, with firms not required to shut, but which still have been negatively impacted by the restrictions.
Council co-leader Jenny Laing said: “Local businesses, particularly in the hospitality industry, here in Aberdeen are facing challenges never before seen and I commend them for their continued resilience.
“While the individual grants are not for a huge amount of money every penny counts in these unprecedented times.”
The council leadership are among those calling for much greater financial support, which Ms Sturgeon said she would “really love to do” – while pointing to budget limitations.