There were growing concerns about a coronavirus outbreak in Aberdeen on Tuesday night, as fears rose that it could become the first Scottish city to be hit with a local lockdown.
The number of cases associated with The Hawthorn bar in the city centre has risen to 32, with some pubs announcing they would be voluntarily shutting their doors temporarily.
There were 23 new coronavirus cases announced in Scotland yesterday, 15 of which were in Grampian. It was not yet known last night how many of the latest cases were associated with the outbreak linked to The Hawthorn.
Nicola Sturgeon said that imposing stricter measures on Aberdeen would be kept “under review”, with further discussions to be held on Wednesday.
While she said that she expected the number of cases to rise, she stressed she would not act in a way that was “disproportionate or overreacting”.
Asked about the possibility of a local lockdown, she said: “All of these things have to be under review on an ongoing basis because we're dealing with this infectious virus and it's a tactical battle we're fighting with this virus.
“So we need to always consider the steps we need to take to stay ahead of it or get it back in retreat if we ever think it’s running out of control.
“We’ll be looking at this and making judgements on whether we need to step in and do anything further.”
Pictures emerged at the weekend of mainly young people crowding in bars in the city, which led Ms Sturgeon to warn that she would consider imposing another closure of the hospitality sector.
The Hawthorn bar was given permission to continue trading, with its management not being blamed for the outbreak, but it was announced that it would close for 14 days yesterday “as a precautionary step”, with two staff members testing positive.
So far, 120 people who had been in close contact with people who tested positive in the cluster have been identified under the track and trace system, and will have to self-isolate for two weeks, something Ms Sturgeon said was “non-negotiable”. The First Minister also warned the Scottish Government could consider placing a legal obligation on hospitality venues to gather contact information from customers.
//THREAD : We can confirm the number of cases detected in the Aberdeen COVID-19 cluster associated with The Hawthorn Bar now stands at 32.
Our Health Protection and Test & Protect teams have identified 120 close contacts of detected cases. We have been in contact with all 120.
— NHS Grampian (@NHSGrampian) August 4, 2020
PB Devco, an Aberdeen hospitality firm, has closed its bars with immediate effect after it was visited by a customer who tested positive for Covid-19.
The company owns a number of businesses in the city, including Soul Bar, which was pictured with crowds gathered outside it at the weekend.
Owner and director Stuart Clarkson said his bars would close until "we feel safe to reopen."
He added: "As soon as we heard someone who had tested positive had visited Soul, we immediately sought advice and followed the guidance of the government.
"However, we feel we now need to take the situation into our own hands to help limit the spread of the virus, as these are unprecedented times and things are escalating quickly."
A spokesman for NHS Grampian said: We're aware some bars in Aberdeen have announced their intention to close. We cannot comment on business decisions. We can confirm that all businesses who have raised concerns in connection with this cluster have had advice and support from our colleagues in Environmental Health.”
Meanwhile, it was also announced that a Scottish version of an online survey from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine will be launched, which is hoped to give a more timely overview of the virus.
Currently, very few people are involved in the surveys from Scotland, Ms Sturgeon said, meaning the modelling is less useful to the Scottish Government.
About 3,000 people will be needed to take part in the survey, she said, as she urged people to come forward.
She said: "By volunteering, you will be helping us to improve our understanding of the epidemic and to ensure that we can identify and respond quickly to any changes that threaten the progress we've made."