Nicola Sturgeon has said there is a “risk” that Covid restrictions on household gatherings will have to be tightened again, as positive cases surged to a three-month high.
The first minister admitted she is growing increasingly anxious about the spread of the virus, as 160 new cases were reported in the last 24 hours.
At her daily Covid briefing, Ms Sturgeon urged the public to presume that the upsurge could lead to more serious illness or deaths as she called on people to stick to anti-Coronavirus guidance.
Sixty-nine of the new cases were in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 27 in Lanarkshire, 18 in Lothian, nine in Forth Valley and eight in Ayrshire and Arran.
Fourteen were in Tayside, where health authorities are dealing with the 2 Sisters outbreak, and just four were Aberdeen, where local lockdown measures have been eased following the cluster linked to city pubs.
The figure of new positive cases was the highest total since May 16 and an increase on the 123 announced on Sunday.
It brings the total number of cases since the start of the pandemic to 20,478.
Zero coronavirus deaths were reported, meaning the total number of fatalities remains at 2,494.Not all of the new cases were linked to larger outbreaks, with the rise in cases in Greater Glasgow and Clyde seeming “to reflect a number of small clusters, rather than one or two more significant outbreaks”.
Sturgeon says there’s a risk of reintroducing restrictions
She said an incident management team was looking at a cluster of 22 cases in Ayrshire and Arran, many of which she said “seem to be linked to indoor gatherings that took place the previous weekend”.
The first minister replied “yes” when she was asked if there was a risk of re-tightening the guidance on meeting indoors. At the moment up to eight people can meet indoors as long as they are from a maximum of three households.
“There is a risk of that. I fervently hope we can avoid that. But I can’t rule out that possibility,” Ms Sturgeon said.
Joining the First Minister today is Deputy First Minister John Swinney and Scotland’s Chief Nursing Officer, Professor Fiona McQueen. https://t.co/az3ZgLp5HU
— Scottish Government (@scotgov) August 31, 2020
She said there were some people who seemed to think the threat had past because of the lack of deaths and the relatively few hospital admissions.
But she warned such “complacency is really dangerous”.
Reflecting on the upsurge, Ms Sturgeon said there had been some “really dark moments” since the virus took hold at the start of March, although there had been moments of hope more recently.
But she added: “I feel that it is important that I say to you I feel a greater sense of anxiety today than I have done at any time probably for the last couple of months.
“We are in a fragile position. We have substantially lifted the lockdown restrictions but in doing so we’ve allowed this virus opportunities to spread. We are trying to keep under control, not by strict lockdown but by all of us doing the right thing and having test and protect and local health protection teams coming in to contain outbreaks when they happen. But unless all of us do that right, I think that will be very hard to do on a continued basis on weeks and months ahead, particularly as we get into winter.”
The increase in cases came as Scotland took more steps out of lockdown, with the opening of gyms and indoor swimming pools and the resumption of youth groups such as Cubs and Brownies and mother and baby groups.
Ms Sturgeon said the “quite high” numbers of new cases were “partly a result of greater numbers of people being tested” and she stressed the proportion of people testing positive was still below 1%.
She added: “We mustn’t lose sight of how important it is if we are to keep schools open, build economic recovery and retain a bit more normality in our lives, that we do continue to suppress the virus and push as close to elimination of it as we possibly can.”