Nicola Sturgeon has warned of Leicester-style lockdowns in Scotland, as she says localised Covid-19 outbreaks are inevitable north of the border.
Marking 100 days since lockdown was announced, Ms Sturgeon warned of a “very real danger” of a Covid-19 resurgence and defended her refusal to rule out quarantine measures for those crossing the English/Scottish border.
Despite the Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA) pointing out 70% of Scotland’s tourism market came from the rest of the UK, Ms Sturgeon said she is unable to guarantee such measures would not be introduced given the unpredictability of the virus.
At her daily coronavirus briefing, Ms Sturgeon said there was now a “genuine chance” of coming close to eliminating the virus but urged the public not to become complacent.
Ms Sturgeon said people should “be on their guard” as restrictions eased because failure to follow the rules would result in the progress being “squandered”.
Ms Sturgeon announced the deaths of three coronavirus patients with positive Covid tests over the last 24 hours, taking the total under that measurement to 2,485.
They were the first to be recorded after a four-day spell where there were no deaths registered.
Ms Sturgeon said in the previous seven days there had been a total of nine Covid deaths in Scotland, compared to 23 in the week before that.
On the 100th day since lockdown was announced, Ms Sturgeon emphasised the improvement in the death rates, pointing out that two weeks after lockdown began National Records of Scotland data suggested there was an average or more than 90 per day.
But she warned the “moment of great opportunity” to reduce the virus further was also a time of “very great danger”.
Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish Government might have to take “some really tough and unpopular decisions” in the weeks ahead to continue the suppression of the virus.
We are likely to see localised flare ups and we have to be ready to deal with them.”
Looking at the Leicester situation, where shops and schools are to shut in response to a virus surge, Ms Sturgeon welcomed the action.
“We are likely to see localised flare ups and we have to be ready to deal with them,” the first minister said.
She said the Scottish Government would want to examine what had happened in Leicester.
“I think not only the UK Government but all of the governments across the UK will want to look at the experience in Leicester and try to learn from that because we will all find ourselves in these positions, I am sure, in the weeks and months to come,” she said.
Ms Sturgeon added that she would like to a avoid a “cycle of local lockdowns” even though it could be argued such an approach was preferable to imposing restrictions across the country.
Therefore, the closer Scotland came to eliminating the virus, the “more able we will be to keep localised outbreaks or clusters associated with particular facilities under control in a much more targeted and less restrictive way”.
She argued controlling the virus would enable a “much more targeted and narrowly based” method of dealing with the “probably inevitable flare ups”.
Shetland Lib Dem MSP Beatrice Wishart, a member of the Holyrood Covid-19 committee, has written to the Scottish Government seeking information on how localised lockdowns would work.
“The public need straight answers on how local lockdowns or restrictions will work in practice and what the threshold is for their introduction,” Ms Wishart said.
“As we begin to exit lockdown, and people increasingly venture out to meet more friends and family members or return to work, the risk of localised flare ups or a full-blown second wave is very real.”
Ms Sturgeon was also asked about the STA’s reaction to the prospect of quarantine measures for travellers coming north of the border.
The STA said a few businesses had been contacted by people south of the border asking for refunds because they were concerned by a “prospective quarantine”.
I know of a few businesses who have received inquiries from people south of the border who have become concerned about a potential quarantine and have asked for reassurance of a full refund should a quarantine come into force.”
Scottish Tourism Alliance chief executive Marc Crothall
Marc Crothall, STA chief executive, called for the four governments of the UK to work together as the Scottish tourism sector prepares to reopen on July 15.
Mr Crothall said: “Given that over 70% of Scottish tourism comes from the UK market, any restrictions on domestic travel will have a significantly negative impact on the sector; in fact, I know of a few businesses who have received inquiries from people south of the border who have become concerned about a potential quarantine and have asked for reassurance of a full refund should a quarantine come into force.”
Ms Sturgeon said: “People in England are welcome in Scotland. That’s always been the case and always will be the case. But I cannot ever guarantee – just as the UK Government cannot guarantee right now that people in Leicester might not be restricted from travelling to other parts of England – I cannot guarantee that we will have no need to impose any kind of restrictions to keep this virus under control.
“Anybody who thinks I should do that right now is coming at this from completely the wrong perspective. I will never take any decisions associated with this virus lightly but I will take the decisions that are necessary to protect the Scottish population.”