Nicola Sturgeon has said the outlook on Aberdeen’s coronavirus outbreak is “improving”, as she signalled some restrictions should be lifted in the coming days.
The first minister suggested that the city would fall in line with the rest of the country “very soon”, as the local lockdown is relaxed.
The first minister said there had been 71 new Covid-19 cases in Scotland in the last 24 hours, the second-highest figure since May. Of those, 10 were in the NHS Grampian area, compared with 31 in Tayside, 16 in Greater Glasgow and Clyde and four in Lanarkshire. No new deaths had been recorded in the last 24 hours.
At her daily coronavirus briefing, Ms Sturgeon described the position in Aberdeen as “an improving situation” and said there was “no evidence” of transmission into Aberdeenshire or Moray.
Ms Sturgeon said that when the local lockdown is reviewed on Sunday, the government would look at bringing Aberdeen into line with the rest of the country on some aspects of coronavirus policy, such as casinos and bingo halls reopening.
We all hope and are optimistic that Aberdeen will be on the road back – if not to complete normality then at least as much normality as the rest of the country very soon.”
Elsewhere in Scotland, such venues are scheduled to come back into use on Monday. Previously, Ms Sturgeon has indicated that she would look at reopening Aberdeen’s non-licensed cafes on Wednesday.
“On Sunday… we will review the lockdown restrictions in Aberdeen again,” Ms Sturgeon said. “And at that time we hope that we will be able to set out a firm timetable for the lifting of these restrictions.
“At that point we will also set out whether some of the changes that were announced more generally for the country yesterday – for example, the reopening of venues like bingo halls – will also apply in Aberdeen.”
She added: “We all hope and are optimistic that Aberdeen will be on the road back – if not to complete normality then at least as much normality as the rest of the country very soon.”
The first minister added that there was “no evidence to suggest there had been wider transmission” beyond the city of Aberdeen.
“That is something that has been looked at very carefully, particularly around Aberdeenshire, particularly given some of the travel patterns and proximity of communities there,” the first minister said.
Ms Sturgeon said the cluster associated with those who gathered in the city’s pubs was now under control. But there was an “ongoing concern” about cases not associated with the cluster, but things were improving. In total, 414 cases have been identified in the Grampian Health Board area since the July 26.
Of those, 237 were associated with the pub-linked cluster, and 1,185 contacts have been identified from those 237 cases. In the last 24 hours, there had been an additional seven cases not associated with the original cluster.
Earlier this week Aberdeen City Council leaders expressed frustration that the city had not been allowed out of its three week lockdown earlier, warning that 5,100 jobs were at risk as a result of the coronavirus.
Aberdeen City Council co-leader Jenny Laing said: “Of course we have to be mindful of public health, but we also have to be mindful of the economic implications, which could have an impact on public health as well.
“It is about balancing competing harms. Economic damage could harm public health through unemployment and poverty. That’s why we thought, in line with the incident management team, that restrictions on travel, household gatherings and hospitality could have been lifted earlier.”
At her briefing, Ms Sturgeon repeated her warnings about house parties, saying indoor social gatherings were proving one of the major drivers of community transmission of the virus.
She said: “That tells us that we need to be incredibly cautious about these kinds of gatherings.
“I want to ask everybody again today to remember the advice that is in place and to comply with it.”
Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop repeated her plea for the UK Government’s furlough scheme to be extended, particularly in the hospitality and tourism industries.