Coronavirus: Local lockdown in Aberdeen extended

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image captionThe cluster was linked to bars in the city

A local lockdown in Aberdeen will be extended for another week, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced.

Pubs and restaurants were shut two weeks ago, and restrictions placed on travel and visits to other households, after a spike in Covid-19 cases linked to bars and nightlife in the city.

Ms Sturgeon said the lockdown was having an impact - but that it was "not yet safe" to lift the restrictions.

Aberdeen City Council said it did not support continuing the lockdown.

A midweek review will be carried out on Sunday, and Ms Sturgeon said she hoped some restrictions could be eased next Wednesday.

This could involve lower-risk businesses, such as non-licensed cafes.

Ms Sturgeon said 15 of the 50 new cases in Scotland on Wednesday were in the Grampian area.

There have now been 398 cases since 26 July in Grampian, 226 of which have been associated with the Aberdeen cluster.

"We are not yet in a position to say that this outbreak is over or completely under control," said Ms Sturgeon.

She said there was some evidence that the original cluster, linked with bars and nightlife in the city, was being contained.

'Hard-won progress'

"However, we are also continuing to see a number of individual cases and other smaller clusters in the city," she said.

"That is not necessarily unusual for an outbreak of this scale, but it is something we must monitor very carefully because these cases don't appear to be linked to the original outbreak."

The first minister said she accepted that there would be disappointment at the continuation of the restrictions.

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But she added: "Moving too quickly with transmission levels as they remain just now would, in our view, risk the hard-won progress that people in Aberdeen have made."

However, the administration leaders on Aberdeen City Council - which is run by a coalition of Conservative, Labour and Independent councillors - said they did not support the city being locked down any longer.

Co-leader Jenny Laing said: "It is apparent that Covid-19 has already had a significant impact on our local economy and continuing with the current restrictions is only going to make a bad economic situation even worse."

She said that at a meeting on Tuesday the incident management team said they believed the situation was now under adequate control, and that mitigation measures could be put in place to allow lower-risk settings to open from Saturday.

Co-leader Douglas Lumsden warned more than 5,000 jobs were at risk.

Aberdeen's Lib Dem group leader Ian Yuill said the administration's stance was "completely irresponsible", adding: "The last thing our city needs just now is confusion and uncertainty."

Enhanced restrictions

NHS Grampian said the local incident management team had been asked to make recommendations to the Scottish government.

It said the team, which was set up to manage and investigate the cluster, supported the "precautionary approach" and the decision to maintain the restrictions.

"We want to encourage everyone in Aberdeen City to keep following the enhanced restrictions," it added.

The current restrictions, which apply to 228,000 people in Aberdeen, are:

  • bars, cafes, restaurants and pubs are closed
  • no travel more than five miles for leisure or holidays
  • no travel to the city for leisure or to visit friends and family, even if you live in Aberdeenshire
  • no indoor visits with other households
  • visiting suspended for most hospitals

A £1m support fund has been set up for the city, with grants of up to £1,500 available for hospitality businesses.

Russell Borthwick, chief executive of Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce, said: "It's good the government has accepted that business is struggling.

image captionMike Henderson said there was nothing in place after furlough ends

"We've already seen business closures and we fear that we may see more, and the job losses that come with that.

"Of course £1m sounds like a chunky figure but at an individual business level at up to £1,500, that isn't going to make the difference between survival or not."

Mike Henderson is involved a number of businesses in Aberdeen as a live entertainment booker, including Bridge Street Social Club. He expressed concerns about the future.

"Once the furlough ends, there's really no plans there - there's nothing in place for us," he said.

"That's why we've started a crowdfunding opportunity for ourselves and our 50 staff to keep them in the job."

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