Nicola Sturgeon has warned Dundee faces tougher Covid restrictions amid growing concern about the rising number of cases in the area.
At her daily coronavirus briefing, Ms Sturgeon said the city was being looked at closely hours before the new five-tier system of measures is debated at Holyrood.
“Dundee is an area we are looking closely at,” Ms Sturgeon said, adding that “significant parts” of the central belt were likely to stay at the same level as they are now.
Five health board areas – Lothian, Greater Glasgow, Ayrshire and Arran, Forth Valley and Lanarkshire – are currently enduring stricter measures than elsewhere with pubs and restaurants closed and travel restrictions in place.
Dundee would be one of the areas where there is a question at the moment about whether it needs to go up a level. No decision has been taken there, but it is one part of the country we are looking at closely.”
Under the new system, which will come into place on November 2, the central belt areas are the equivalent of tier three – the second-strictest of the five levels from zero to four.
Ms Sturgeon raised the prospect of Dundee moving up to a similar level.
“Dundee would be one of the areas where there is a question at the moment about whether it needs to go up a level,” the first minister said. “No decision has been taken there, but it is one part of the country we are looking at closely.”
In the past 24 hours, one more coronavirus death was recorded in Scotland and a further 1,122 positive tests.
The death toll, under the measure that takes account of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days, has risen to 2,701.
The daily test positivity rate is 7.1%, down from 7.9% on the previous day.
The NHS Tayside health board has 60 cases today. It’s been around that level for a few days now. But they are concentrated in Dundee city and that’s what you would expect in an urban setting.”
National Clinical Director Jason Leitch
Of the new cases, 428 are in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 274 in Lanarkshire, 105 in Lothian, and 97 in Ayrshire and Arran.
National Clinical Director Jason Leitch said NHS Tayside had reported 60 cases in its most recent figures, adding that they were mainly in the Dundee city area.
“Dundee city does concern us,” Professor Leitch said. “The NHS Tayside health board has 60 cases today. It’s been around that level for a few days now. But they are concentrated in Dundee city and that’s what you would expect in an urban setting.
“We know that is, in the main, a higher risk when there aren’t specific outbreaks in the rural areas. So we do locally – the public health team – and nationally remain concerned about Dundee city.”
Travel exemption to get students home for Christmas
After Education Secretary John Swinney told BBC Radio Scotland that there was a “realistic possibility” that students may not get home at the end of term, Ms Sturgeon said ideas were being looked at to help them return to their families for Christmas.
Ms Sturgeon indicated students could be granted “exemptions” to Covid travel restrictions.
She said a different travel regime for students was “one of the things we’re working through”, although no firm decision had yet been taken.
The First Minister also said she had “no plans” to reduce the two-week self-isolation period, after reports the UK Government was considering a cut to 7 or 10 days.
But she added the matter was always under review in case of new evidence.
‘It’s still a 14-day self-isolation’
Professor Leitch said he is not aware of any scientific advice in any part of the UK that supports a reduction from the current 14-day period, or 10 days from the date a person’s symptoms end.
Prof Leitch said: “We have no plans with the present clinical advice to change that in any way.
“As far as I know, there is no clinical advice in the other three UK countries.”
He added: “There’s no present plan, but we keep it under constant review globally and locally and if we think the incubation period has changed or we think the risk has changed in some way, then we will of course advise appropriately
“But for now, I’m afraid it’s still a 14 day self-isolation.”
Also speaking at the briefing, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said Scotland is “on track” to have capacity for 65,000 coronavirus tests per day by winter.
She said a “significant proportion” of the testing capacity increase will come from three new regional laboratory hubs that she expects to open in November and December.
More than a third of the potential capacity will be provided by the new laboratories, she said.