Chief Constable Iain Livingstone has urged the public to tell police if neighbours are throwing a house party, as he warned lockdown easing had made people “demob happy”.
Scotland’s most senior police officer pledged to deal “robustly” with those who breach the Covid-19 restrictions by meeting indoors this weekend when he appeared at the Scottish Government’s daily coronavirus briefing.
Mr Livingstone expressed concern at the large numbers of people who had congregated at parks and beaches in the sunshine last weekend and revealed that 2,000 dispersal orders had been made over a 72-hour period.
In addition, Police Scotland had made 1,000 arrests for non-coronavirus related offences over the weekend, which had put “acute” demand on the force.
“We saw non-coronavirus-related crime returning to levels which are more in line with what we would call business as usual,” the chief constable said.
Another 14 coronavirus deaths reported
At the briefing, Mr Livingston appeared alongside First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who announced there had been a further 14 deaths of people who had tested positive for coronavirus in the last 24 hours.
The death toll under that particular measurement now stood at 2,409. There were 995 patients in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19, a fall of 26 in 24 hours, marking the first time since March 30 this figure has been under 1,000. Of these patients, 23 are in intensive care, down by five.
Mr Livingstone said he had been concerned at the behaviour of some people last weekend following the lifting of some restrictions.
“The small changes made last week, following 10-weeks of strict lockdown rules, did coincide with particularly good weather and, in my judgement, did lead to some people feeling and acting, to be frank, a bit demob happy,” he said.
With the weather forecast for this weekend looking gloomier, Mr Livingstone and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon both warned of the dangers of holding indoor gatherings.
Ms Sturgeon said medical evidence suggested that meeting friends and family inside was “extremely high risk” and would lead to more deaths.
“I’m not exaggerating when I say that if you do meet people from other households indoors you are putting yourself and are putting them at risk of getting the virus, of becoming ill with it and potentially dying from it,” the first minister said.
Mr Livingstone added that members of the public should inform the police if they are aware of any parties in their neighbourhood.
He said: “If you have concerns this weekend, living in your own communities, that there is a house party going on somewhere, I would encourage you to contact the police service because it is right thing to do.
“We need to identify house parties if they are occurring. We’ll deal with them in a fair and reasonable manner. We will explain and encourage people to do the right thing. But if they are not, we will enforce the law because there is high risk and high threat from having house parties indoors.”
Call for anti-racism protests to be conducted safely
Ms Sturgeon and Mr Livingstone also pleaded with people not to attend mass Black Lives Matter demonstrations, urging them to find a safe way to protest instead.
They both condemned the death of George Floyd, who died after being restrained by a Minneapolis police officer. There is also enormous public anger over video footage of police brutality in the United States.
Ms Sturgeon said she may well have attended anti-racism demonstrations in Scotland if it were not for the pandemic. Instead she urged people to protest online or make donations.
The first minister said: “I want to urge you to make your voices heard (in support of Black Lives Matter), we all feel very strongly about this, but I want to ask you do so safely.
“In normal times I may well have been planning to join a gathering of support this weekend but coming together in mass gatherings right now is simply not safe. It poses a real risk to health and pose a real risk to life.”
Mr Livingstone said his officers were in touch with organisers of some events planned in Scotland this weekend.
He said: “I also fully understand the desire of people in Scotland to make their voices heard this weekend over racial injustice. Please do this in a way that does not risk spreading coronavirus; policing in Scotland will help in this regard.”
Mr Livingstone added that he found some of the scenes from the US “absolutely abhorrent”.