Nicola Sturgeon said pictures of people crowding outside Aberdeen pubs “made her want to cry” as she announced 11 new positive Covid-19 cases had been recorded in Grampian.
At her daily coronavirus briefing in Edinburgh, the first minister said she would not hesitate to reimpose lockdown restrictions on pubs and restaurants.
There were no new Covid deaths to report for the 18th day in a row, but the first minster said there had been 18 new positive cases over the last 24 hours, including 11 in the NHS Grampian area.
Ms Sturgeon said it was too early to say if some or all of the new cases were linked to the Aberdeen cluster, which came to light when 13 people tested positive in an outbreak connected to the Hawthorn Bar in Holburn Street.
The first minister warned the Aberdeen cluster numbers may yet rise as she thanked the Hawthorn Bar for “acting swiftly and co-operating fully” with the coronavirus procedures.
An NHS Grampian-led incident team is working with the Scottish Government, Health Protection Scotland and local environmental health teams to minimise transmission by tracing contacts and inspecting premises.
Ms Sturgeon said it was “very likely” more clusters would be seen in the coming weeks, adding that the Aberdeen outbreak was “exactly what I feared when we reopened hospitality”.
Social media photographs of people thronging outside Aberdeen pubs were described as “dangerous” by Ms Sturgeon on twitter.
Spot on from @StephenFlynnSNP – COVID remains a real and present threat to our health and wellbeing. Scenes like these are dangerous, and could easily result in pubs being closed again – which no one wants. We all have a responsibility here. Please, please everybody #keeptheheid https://t.co/vuDqN9ZJmo
— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) August 3, 2020
At her briefing, she added pictures of younger people gathering with “little or no physical distancing” caused her concern.
“I’ve seen pictures on social media from this weekend that – not to put too fine a point on it – made me want to cry looking at them,” Ms Sturgeon said, adding that flouting the rules put everyone at risk.
If that happens then we will unfortunately – it’s not something I want to do – have to consider further restrictions up to and including, perhaps, the further shutdown of premises like pubs and restaurants, and that’s the last thing I want to do.”
Ms Sturgeon has said her key aim was to make sure that schools open fully from August 11, adding that she would consider closing down pubs and restaurants again if such action was needed to stop the virus spreading.
She said reopening the economy was a “delicate balance” that did not take much to be “thrown off kilter”.
“If that happens then we will unfortunately – it’s not something I want to do – have to consider further restrictions up to and including, perhaps, the further shutdown of premises like pubs and restaurants, and that’s the last thing I want to do,” Ms Sturgeon said.
“I’ve made no bones about the fact that the return of schools, for obvious reasons, the wellbeing of our young people, is the priority of the government.
“We will not allow that to be compromised if taking action elsewhere can protect that objective.”
Ms Sturgeon also declined to rule out changing guidance for indoor eating and drinking establishments such as increasing social distancing from one to two metres, a change that would have a profound impact on the number of customers. She also said the prospect of local lockdowns would be kept under review.
The prospect of Scotland failing to move on to the next phase out of lockdown for many months was also raised by the first minister.
One of the criteria we’ve got to satisfy ourselves of to go into phase four is that the judgement is that this virus no longer presents a significant threat to public health and we’re not there yet right now. We’re not anywhere near that right now.”
Ms Sturgeon said the transition from Scotland’s current phase three status to the final stage – phase four – was unlikely to happen when the lockdown is next reviewed in a little under three weeks’ time.
Phase three is likely to continue for the “foreseeable future”, Ms Sturgeon said.
“One of the criteria we’ve got to satisfy ourselves of to go into phase four is that the judgement is that this virus no longer presents a significant threat to public health and we’re not there yet right now. We’re not anywhere near that right now.
“I said in parliament last week that we would stay in phase three for now and when it comes to the next review, in just under three weeks, it’s quite possible that we will stay in phase three then as well.
“This virus is still a threat to public health and until we are in a different position in some way, that is likely to be the case for the foreseeable future.”
Ms Sturgeon confirmed Scotland would receive a share of new coronavirus tests that promise results within 90 minutes – but it is not clear when they will be ready.
The UK Department of Health and Social Care announced faster swab and DNA tests to detect both Covid-19 and flu will be rolled out in hospitals, care homes and laboratories.
Ms Sturgeon said the breakthrough is “very welcome” and could speed up the country’s Test and Protect programme, as Health Secretary Jeane Freeman confirmed negotiations with the UK Government mean Scotland will receive a “population share” of the new tests.
Before the tests can be used in Scotland, Ms Freeman said scientists will study their effectiveness and accuracy then compare them with the current polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests that aim to produce results within 48 hours.