Coronavirus in Scotland: Lockdown house parties 'putting lives at risk'

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Scotland's justice secretary has said people are "risking lives" by having house parties during lockdown.

Humza Yousaf said there have been "far too many" gatherings at homes, which have become a "challenge" for police.

Officers have issued 537 on-the-spot fines since emergency powers to deal with the coronavirus epidemic came into effect last month.

Police have also made 35 arrests due to people breaking restrictions between 27 March and 9 April.

However Mr Yousaf said many of those who were arrested would normally "come into contact" with police, and may lead "slightly chaotic" lifestyles.

It comes as the public have been urged to stay at home this Easter weekend.

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Justice secretary Humza Yousaf said there has been huge compliance with measures but gatherings at homes were a 'challenge'

Mr Yousaf told the BBC's Good Morning Scotland: "There's high levels of compliance and some indicative data that Scotland is complying really, really well in comparison to the rest of the UK.

"But where we have some challenges is in the urban conurbations in particular - people have been having house parties and the police have had to go in and disperse far too many of them."

He added: "People who haven't seen their pals maybe think they aren't carrying symptoms, but by having a house party - regardless of how small that may be - you are genuinely risking lives, your own plus those that you'll come into contact with."

With dry, sunny weather forecast for the weekend, officers will be on patrol to explain the risks to public health of failing to comply with the lockdown rules.

Mr Yousaf admitted that the Easter weekend would be a "challenge", but said that the message to stay at home was clear.

And he said officers would continue to use their powers of arrest only as a "last resort" for people who refuse to comply with the rules.

He said: "The police are at the forefront of those social distancing measures and will always take that very common sense approach."

Police Scotland said last week that 144 fines had been issued by officers in the first week of the lockdown, including six fines that were issued after a house party in Aberdeen.

Fines start at £30, doubling to £60 if they are not paid within 28 days. Repeat offenders can face fines of up to £960.

Where have fines been issued in Scotland?. .  .

'Same for every citizen'

Speaking at the daily Scottish government briefing later on Friday, Chief Constable Iain Livingstone said that stronger action would be taken if people refused to listen to the advice that officers give them.

He added: "We will always start with seeking to explain why an individual is in breach of the regulations - and if they refuse to accept that we will take enforcement action."

In the case of the former chief medical officer, Dr Catherine Calderwood, who twice travelled from Edinburgh to her second home in Fife, Mr Livingstone said he believed the matter was dealt with by police in a "timely, fair and proportionate manner".

Mr Livingstone said it was "entirely appropriate" that she was given a warning and did not require a fine.

He said: "That is exactly how I would expect any citizen to be dealt with."

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told the briefing that she was concerned about people "tiring" of lockdown measures but it was "vital" to persist.

She said: "This virus hasn't gone away but if we stop prematurely, this virus will start to spread out of control very quickly."