Aberdeenshire is poised to be plunged into tougher coronavirus restrictions today due to a surge in cases.
It is understood that the national incident management team (IMT) has urged the Scottish Government to clamp down on the region when the levels across the country are reviewed this afternoon.
Despite rising infection rates last week, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced there would be no immediate changes but warned that the situation in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire would be monitored “very carefully”.
Since then, several other outbreaks have been reported.
During Monday afternoon’s daily briefing, the first minister said no decision has yet been made, but it is understood that a move from Level Two to Level Three is on the cards.
It is not currently known what has been recommended for Aberdeen, following pleas from local leaders that the city not be included in any shift alongside the neighbouring region.
What happens if Aberdeenshire moves into level three?
North-east councils, the government and public health directors discussed over the weekend whether the numbers warrant the imposition of stricter measures.
Asked to comment on the potential shift yesterday, Ms Sturgeon told The P&J: “That will be something we are assessing.
“Obviously we didn’t feel it was necessary to do it before now, and therefore the decision on that will fall to be taken as part of the wider suite of decisions.”
The third tier is more similar to the lockdown imposed earlier in the year, with a ban on travel outside of the council area, except for essential reasons like work and school.
Bars and restaurants would have to close by 6pm and would not be allowed to serve alcoholic drinks and adults could no longer participate in outdoor contact sport.
There have been a number of outbreaks in Aberdeenshire in recent weeks, with the fatal cluster at Inchmarlo House Care Home near Banchory the most severe.
There were also at least 86 cases at the Kepak McIntosh Donald plant in Portlethen.
On Monday, all S1 students at Ellon Academy were told to stay at home after a positive case of Covid-19 was detected at the school.
‘Moving to level three could well have a negative impact’
That difference is something that Aberdeen City Council co-leader Douglas Lumsden hopes will spare Aberdeen from moving up a tier alongside Aberdeenshire.
Mr Lumsden said he had been in discussions with the Scottish Government’s chief medical officer Gregor Smith, and finance secretary Kate Forbes, about the potential for Aberdeen to move up a restriction level in recent days.
He said: “They are keeping their cards very close to their chest, more than last week.
“They did say they feel something should be done, as there is a slight increase week-on-week.
“They do want to do something else because there is a gradual increase, but the point I made is moving to Level Three could well have a negative impact.
“It could well drive people out of a controlled environment in the hospitality sector into an uncontrolled environment in people’s homes.”