South Scotland

Coronavirus: Police will enforce border cluster rules as 'last resort'

The River Annan, Annan Bridge and Town Hall, Dumfries and Galloway Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Stricter restrictions remain in place in Annan (pictured), Gretna, Dumfries, Lockerbie, Langholm and Canonbie

Police will enforce the coronavirus lockdown restrictions around a cross-border cluster as a "last resort", Scotland's justice secretary has said.

Humza Yousaf said residents in the east of Dumfries and Galloway appeared to be sticking to a five-mile travel rule.

There would continue to be a "heavy reliance on self-compliance", he added.

It came as Scots were warned not to be tempted to travel across the border as pubs in England reopened for the first time in three months.

The five-mile limit on leisure travel has been lifted across Scotland except in the area where the cluster has been identified.

It affects residents of Annan, Gretna, Dumfries, Lockerbie, Langholm and Canonbie.

Eleven positive tests in the region have been linked to the cluster and contact tracers have identified 23 people who have been asked to isolate.

Figures released on Saturday showed there was one new case in Dumfries and Galloway but it is not yet clear whether that is linked to the cluster.

It was one of 11 positive tests were recorded across Scotland. There were no Covid-related deaths in the last 24 hours.

Prof Jason Leitch, the national clinical director, said the incident management team was due to meet again on Saturday afternoon.

"As far as I know... we still believe that outbreak or cluster is being contained very well," he added.

'Test and protect'

Mr Yousaf told Good Morning Scotland police officers would take a "common sense, proportionate" response to policing lockdown restrictions in the region.

"So you're not going to see hundreds and hundreds of officers sent down to Annan and Gretna and so on and patrolling the streets to make sure nobody is going beyond the five-mile limit," he said.

He added that throughout the restrictions, the authorities have relied on people to comply and said "the people of Scotland have been good at that" throughout.

Mr Yousaf said the restrictions were now accompanied by "a really efficient test and protect system" which it is hoped will contain the virus.

He added: "Police enforcement will of course where necessary be a last resort as part of that.

"But really this is where the test and protect system comes into its own."

Image copyright PA Media

Police Scotland said officers would not be stopping cars or making any changes to policing in the border area, although the force urged people to follow the coronavirus rules.

Ch Supt Linda Jones, divisional commander for Dumfries and Galloway, said: "We are asking people to take personal responsibility to do the right thing and remember the purpose of these measures is to aid the collective effort to stay safe, protect others and save lives by preventing the virus from spreading.

"Our officers will continue to engage with the public, explain the legislation and guidance and encourage compliance. We will use enforcement as a last resort only where there is a clear breach of the legislation."

'Social gatherings'

Elaine Murray, leader of Dumfries and Galloway Council said "some complacency has crept in", adding: "We know that a couple of social gatherings which shouldn't have taken place may be implicated in the spread of this outbreak.

"It's vital that we adhere to the guidance this weekend, including that which remains in place in part of our region but has been relaxed elsewhere in Scotland."

On Friday one of the people who tested positive told ITV Border her household had been "vilified".

The woman, an NHS worker, insisted that her household had always acted in accordance with the rules.

Image caption It was quiet at Dumfries train station on Saturday, after residents were warned against travelling over the border to Carlisle

The council leader added that the outbreak in Dumfries and Galloway was a reminder that "the virus is still circulating".

She added: "We know it is in the community in Cumbria so it essential that none of us travel to Carlisle for the reopening of the pubs this weekend, however tempting that may be."

Nick Morris, chairman of NHS Dumfries and Galloway, added: "It is vitally important that everyone follows the national guidance.

"Doing this will help to contain the virus and will continue to help save lives."

More on this story