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Aberdeen is put into lockdown: Nicola Sturgeon orders all pubs in the city to close

The city of Aberdeen was today put back into lockdown as pubs, cafes and restaurants were shut and its population of more than 200,000 people were banned from travelling more than five miles from their homes.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said 54 infections have now been reported in the local Covid-19 outbreak – double yesterday’s figure – and all indoor and outdoor hospitality venues were ordered to close by 5pm today. 

Speaking in Edinburgh this afternoon, Ms Sturgeon said the rise in cases heightens fears the Scottish Government is ‘dealing with a significant outbreak in Aberdeen that may include some community transmission’. 

Residents were told not to enter each other’s houses – while extra police officers will be on the streets in the city to ensure residents comply with the reintroduced rules, with Police Scotland saying it will ‘continue to engage, educate and encourage people’ to follow the restrictions. 

The Scottish Tourism Alliance has warned the move will be a ‘devastating blow’ for the community and the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) described the imposed lockdown as a ‘bitter blow’ to the area.

Meanwhile, some restaurants saw a flurry of last minute bookings after the announcement of the 5pm curfew, but many bar and hotel owners were left furious about the rule change after investing thousands of pounds in new signage, sanitizing stations, outside seating areas and marquees to keep customers dry.

It comes a day after the Queen and Prince Philip landed at Aberdeen Airport where they were met by a driver and whisked off to Balmoral Castle, which is roughly an hour away. Their staff in Scotland have been quarantined for two weeks to minimise the Covid risk, and the couple are expected to stay there until early October as they enjoy a delayed summer holiday.

The Aberdeen lockdown also comes just six days after parts of the North West of England were also put back under restrictions, with 4.5million people in Manchester facing £100 fines if they breach the rules.

In other Covid-19 developments today:

The measures in Aberdeen, which apply to the city area, will be backed by government regulations, the First Minister said, and will be enforced if the rules are not followed.

The Scottish Government later announced that visits to hospital and care homes from a named family member or friend will be stopped, with only essential visits being allowed.

The decision was taken following a meeting of the Scottish Government Resilience Committee (SCOR), which also included leaders of Aberdeen City Council, NHS Grampian and Police Scotland.

Ms Sturgeon added the decision to reimpose some measures was taken to ‘prevent further spread and to give the Test and Protect teams the best possible chance of successfully breaking these chains of transmission’.

The First Minister said people should not travel to Aberdeen, but those who are already there can remain.

She added the changes will be reviewed next Wednesday, when she hopes they could be removed, either in entirety or in part. Ms Sturgeon said they could be extended beyond that seven-day period if necessary.

Speaking at the Covid briefing in Edinburgh today, she said the rise in cases has contributed to a greater fear there has been a ‘significant outbreak’ in the city.

According to the First Minister, more than 20 other pubs and restaurants are involved in the cluster.

NHS Grampian has named 28 bars and restaurants, three golf clubs and a football club as venues visited by people linked to the cluster.

The bars and restaurants are The Bieldside Inn; The Bobbin; Brewdog; Buckie Farm Carvery; Cafe Andaluz; Cafe Dag; Cafe Drummond; The Cock and Bull; The College Bar; The Dutch Mill; Dyce Carvery; East End Social Club; Ferryhill House Hotel; The Hawthorn; The Howff, The Justice Mill, The Marine Hotel, McGinty’s; McNasty’s; Malmaison; Moonfish Cafe, No 10 Bar; O’Donoghues; Old Bank Bar; Prohibition; Soul; The Spiders Web, and The Draft Project.

Aboyne Golf Club, Deeside Golf Club, Hazlehead Golf Club and Banks O’ Dee Football Club were also cited by the health board.

Across Scotland, Ms Sturgeon said 18,781 people have tested positive for the virus, up by 64 from 18,717 the day before.

‘The last thing we want to do is to reimpose these restrictions but this outbreak is reminding us just how highly infectious Covid is,’ Ms Sturgeon said.

‘Our precautionary and careful judgment is that we need to take decisive action now, difficult as that undoubtedly is, in order to try to contain this outbreak and prevent further harm later on.

‘As I said earlier, this is about doing all we can to ensure our children can return to schools next week.’

She added: ‘Acting now, we judge, gives us the time and the space to protect the ability of our young people to return to education.’ 

There have been no coronavirus deaths in Scotland for the 20th day in a row, Ms Sturgeon said. A total of 2,491 patients have died in Scotland after testing positive for Covid-19. 

There were 267 people in hospital with confirmed Covid-19, down by three. Of these, three were in intensive care, with no change.

The First Minister told the briefing that she was aware the lockdown changes were ‘deeply, deeply unwelcome news’.

She added: ‘The last thing we want to do is to reimpose these restrictions but this outbreak is reminding us just how highly infectious Covid is. 

‘Our precautionary and careful judgement is that we need to take decisive action now, difficult as that undoubtedly is, in order to try to contain this outbreak and prevent further harm later on.

‘As I said earlier, this is about doing all we can to ensure our children can return to schools next week.’

She added: ‘Acting now, we judge, gives us the time and the space to protect the ability of our young people to return to education.’

But in a mild attack on Ms Sturgeon, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: ‘The risk with easing the lockdown was always that fresh outbreaks would arise and have to be dealt with. Caution is the correct response that we support so we cannot afford to let our guard down.

‘Hopefully this outbreak can be swiftly addressed but these additional restrictions will bring with them a significant impact on the economy of Aberdeen.

‘Scottish Liberal Democrats have been asking for weeks for more detail about how local lockdowns will be enforced and what support will be made available for businesses and employees. It is time for the First Minister to provide some much-needed clarity.’

CBI Scotland director Tracy Black added: ‘While this news will come as a disappointment to many people and businesses, it’s essential that we keep on top of the virus and public safety must come first.

‘Aberdeen won’t be the last local area that faces renewed restrictions in the coming months, so the Scottish Government must do everything it can to provide clear, timely advice and appropriate support to firms and individuals. That’s a must to maintain public confidence.

‘This will be a particular blow to the local hospitality sector, which has now faced a double-whammy of lockdowns, and emphasises the need for government support to evolve in-line with the trajectory of the virus.’ 

A spokesman for the Scottish Tourism Alliance said: ‘Today’s announcement that restrictions will be imposed in Aberdeen from 5pm today for at least the next seven days will come as a devastating blow to the many hospitality businesses who have invested significant amounts of money in reopening and providing a safe experience to their staff and the public. 

‘Aberdeen serves as an example of how quickly the virus can reignite and illustrates the immediate impact that this has on a local economy and public health.’

The Chester Hotel in the city’s West End invested a significant sum of money into setting up an al-fresco dining area.

General manager Stephen Gow said: ‘We have made significant investment to create an alfresco offering, so it is unfortunate that we have marquees which we will require to pay the rental for, despite them being unused for the next seven days at least.

‘For some reason taking in the chairs and tables this afternoon has been more disheartening than shutting up shop on Friday 20 March.’

He added: ‘We are supportive of the localised lockdown in Aberdeen to keep as many people as safe as possible.

‘As a business we chose to remain operating wholly outdoors with proper physical distancing even when we were permitted to move indoors again as we felt our guests would appreciate – and feel safer – being served alfresco. We also made the decision not to reopen our bedrooms until we felt confident that the risks remained very low in the area.

‘We have been serving up to 400 guests every day since we opened in two open sided marquees with a host of new measures in place to make everyone feel safe. We have had terrific guest feedback on all of our new ways of operating and the levels of service which our very hard-working team has been able to deliver under trying circumstances.

‘It’s extremely unfortunate that a minority of the population was unable to abide by sensible physical distancing and this has led to us having to send all of our staff home again when they have all done the hotel proud.’

The SLTA described the Scottish Government’s imposed lockdown in Aberdeen as a ‘bitter blow’ for the area.

Colin Wilkinson, SLTA managing director, said: ‘Responsible operators, as demonstrated by the Hawthorn Bar, have gone above and beyond to comply with the guidance that was put in place by the government to allow the industry to reopen, and some operators also demonstrated their commitment by voluntary closing their premises before the First Minister’s announcement today.

‘Obviously the forced closure was not a decision taken lightly by government. The SLTA acknowledges the fragile situation we are all operating in and we cannot emphasise enough the need for everyone to adhere to the guidance, businesses, staff and customers alike.

‘All premises must also operate the Test and Protect scheme which is so important in stopping the spread of the virus.

‘The outcome in Aberdeen reflects the difficulties faced by a “social” industry operating in these unprecedented times and highlights the need for ongoing sector-specific support through an extension of the furlough scheme plus additional grant aid for the industry’s survival – and for the protection of the jobs it provides.

‘There can be no doubt that customers also have their part to play and the SLTA asks those heading to, visiting our pubs and bars, and returning home, to comply with the necessary restrictions that are now in place.

‘Responsible operators in our industry will continue to do everything they can to provide as safe an environment as possible for all customers who visit our pubs and bars.’

Extra police officers will be on the streets in Aberdeen to ensure residents comply with the lockdown rules.

Police Scotland Deputy Chief Constable Will Kerr said: ‘It’s really important that people follow the instructions and guidance from the Scottish Government. To support that, we will have additional patrols in Aberdeen, where local restrictions have been reintroduced.

‘Our approach to these local restrictions will reflect the consistent approach taken by Police Scotland since the outset of this pandemic, and our officers will continue to engage, educate and encourage people to comply, as we all support the public health efforts to stop the spread of the virus

‘As a national service, Police Scotland is able to quickly flex capacity to support local communities across the country and we will provide whatever additional resources are necessary to protect and support the communities affected.’

He reiterated comments from Chief Constable Iain Livingstone that everyone should take personal responsibility to prevent the virus spreading.

Mr Kerr added: ‘Throughout the response to the pandemic, the majority of the public followed the law and Scottish Government advice. I realise that this situation will be frustrating for people in the affected area but it’s really important that we all continue to do so.

‘Our officers will continue to explain the legislation and guidance but, for the minority who may choose to breach the regulations and risk the health of others, we will not hesitate to take enforcement action where appropriate.’

Meanwhile, some dining establishment saw a flurry of last minute bookings and others reported that some reservations after the 5pm curfew had asked for an earlier table. 

Karen Simpson, 50, from Aberdeen, had already booked a table in an Italian restaurant in Aberdeen for lunch before the lockdown was announced.

It was the first time she had ventured into the city since March. After the meal with her friend she stopped by the Kirkgate Bar for a pint of cider. 

She said: ‘It was inevitable. We already had a meal booked. So we were out for a meal and we walked passed here and just decided we will have a drink before we go home. The restaurant was preparing to shut too. There was only one other table in with us.

‘After what happened on Saturday in some places it was inevitable that it would come to this. This is the first time I’ve been in town and as I walked through the city centre it didn’t feel normal. It was strange.’

For mother-of-two Erin Strachan, 30, from Banchory, Aberdeenshire, a trip into town was not for the pubs but rather to pick up school and nursery clothes for her two littles ones aged six and three.

She said: ‘I hope that we’ve got the cluster early enough that it doesn’t cause a backlash on anything else. I think people could have used their brains a bit more and thought “I could wait for a pub”.

‘At the same I understand it’s a hard job for the bars to police. But they really need to do a better job at it. Bars and police have to hope that people use their common sense and clearly there has been a lack of that.

‘It’s now going to have a knock on effect for people like me who are trying to make sure their kids can see grandparents and get back to school. It’s all been for the sake of someone else getting a pint.

‘I just hope that people make the sacrifices to get things back to normal now.’

Siberia Vodka Bar in Aberdeen announced its closure on Tuesday ahead of the official lockdown announcement.

Bar director Stuart McPhee has been speaking to fellow pub and restaurant owners and said there was a ‘hostility’ towards the members of the public who were social irresponsible and caused the cluster and subsequent lockdown.

He said: ‘I’m trying to speak to everybody because this is a big crisis moment for us all. Regardless of what you as an individual business have or have not done we are all lumped in together now. We’ve got to come out the other side of this having learned the lessons of what we have done.

‘I’ve spoken to most people and there’s hostility and anger from some who have invested a fair amount of money to get themselves back up and operating. That’s understandable.

‘It’s a kneejerk reaction because they were the ones of who should be carrying on trading and now feel hard done by – by a minority of people who have not followed the rules.

‘There is not really a way to mitigate against the general public and their inability to follow simple instructions. There’s no mitigation against stupidity. It’s very difficult.’

Mr McPhee added: ‘There’s also a couple of layered issues in that we’ve had a couple of pop-up bars in the city which has actually increased the capacity for drinking in the city centre.

‘They all curtail at 10pm but then other places are still open so the default setting becomes let’s go find somewhere else.

‘The two hour time slot, which is prevalent everywhere, seems to have been interpreted by the general public up here is that “okay two hours here, two hours there, then two hours another place”.

‘That’s why we are seeing something along the lines of the pattern that we are seeing with multiple pubs involved.’

Yesterday the First Minister said she ‘wanted to cry’ over pictures of pubgoers not social distancing at the weekend as 27 cases of were linked to one bar.

SNP MP Stephen Flynn yesterday tweeted two photos he had spotted online of the city centre, where an outbreak took place in The Hawthorn Bar.

The MP said he was ‘scunnered’ by the images, which showed dozens of people queuing to enter pubs in the city. 

NHS Grampian later announced 27 cases of the virus had been linked to the bar, adding it is ‘aware’ of photos being shared online of ‘extremely busy bars’.  

Addressing the Aberdeen cluster, the First Minister thanked the owners of the Hawthorn bar, where the outbreak is believed to have started, and said work was being done to address the cluster.

She added the coronavirus outbreak was ‘exactly what we feared’ when the decision was taken to reopen the hospitality industry.

Retweeting Mr Flynn’s images on Monday morning, Ms Sturgeon described the scenes as ‘dangerous’, warning it could result in the closure of more bars.

She said: ‘Spot on from @StephenFlynnSNP – Covid remains a real and present threat to our health and wellbeing.

‘Scenes like these are dangerous, and could easily result in pubs being closed again – which no one wants. We all have a responsibility here. Please, please everybody #keeptheheid.’

Mr Flynn, who represents Aberdeen South, said: ‘A bit scunnered by some of the photos appearing online from the city centre over the weekend.

‘Covid-19 has not gone away – as is evident from the cluster linked to The Hawthorn Bar. Should act as the wake-up call some folk clearly need.’

NHS Grampian tweeted earlier on Monday: ‘We can confirm the number of cases detected in the Aberdeen COVID-19 cluster associated with The Hawthorn Bar now stands at 27.’

It added: ‘We aware that many photos have been shared on social media over the weekend of extremely busy bars and venues in Aberdeen.

‘Our Environmental Health colleagues at Aberdeen City Council are in contact with licensees in the city to reiterate the safety rules and regulations. ‘

Dr Emmanuel Okpo, Consultant in Public Health Medicine, said: ‘It is not entirely surprising further cases have been detected. This virus is still circulating in our communities. It poses a risk to all of us. 

‘People who have not gone to this bar, or who live in other parts of Grampian, should not assume they are somehow ‘safe’.

‘If you develop the symptoms of COVID-19 – a loss of sense of taste or smell, a fever, or a new, continuous cough, isolate at home & arrange a test.’

The owners said customers – who were there on July 26 – tested positive but it was confirmed by NHS Grampian they were only showing mild symptoms.

Physical distancing measures were put in place within the pub and contact tracing is being carried out to identify any other potential cases.

Yesterday, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh arrived in Scotland for the start of their summer holiday. 

The couple, who had been isolating at Windsor Castle, travelled by car earlier to RAF Northolt, in West London, where they boarded a private jet.

After a short flight, the Queen, 94, and Prince Philip, 99, touched down at Aberdeen Airport where they were met by a driver and taken on the hour journey to Balmoral.

They landed in overcast weather, with the Queen donning a rain mac over her smart powder blue suit as her husband followed her down the stairs of the plane in his own practical waterproof coat.

They were followed by royal aides carrying luggage and a pair of dorgis, the Queen’s beloved dogs which are a cross between a dachshund and a Welsh corgi.

Her Majesty and the Duke will stay at the 50,000-acre estate until early October and will be joined by family members throughout their visit.

It will be a welcome change of scenery for the couple, who have not left the grounds of Windsor Castle since March.

A group of royal aides travelled up to the sprawling 50,000-acre Scottish estate ahead of yesterday to prepare the castle for the couple’s arrival.

It is understood staff quarantined for two weeks in order to minimise the risk of the Queen or Prince Philip, who are both in their 90s, being exposed to Covid-19.

Reports suggest the hand-picked team of royal aides who will join the couple include Vice-Admiral Tony Johnstone-Burt, master of the household; Sir Edward Young, the Queen’s private secretary, and Paul Whybrew and William Henderson, her pages.

Major Nana Kofi Twumasi-Ankrah, her equerry; Terry Pendry, her head groom; Angela Kelly, the Queen’s personal assistant and her senior dresser; Jackie Newbold, Kelly’s PA; and three assistant dressers will also join, according to The Sunday Times. 

It is thought staff will minimise their contact with people outside the royal household in order to create a ‘Balmoral bubble’ designed to keep the Queen and Prince Philip safe.

Measures will also be taken if any members of the royal family come to visit. Typically the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh are joined by their children and grandchildren, as well as close friends, throughout the summer holiday.

But this year any visitors, who typically include the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall and Prince Edward and the Countess of Wessex, will likely maintain social distancing while on site.

Family members will not stay in the castle with the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh as they have done in previous years and will instead be housed in other properties in the grounds of the estate.

They will be able to meet her for outside activities instead including walks, horse riding and picnics.

Previous reports suggest Balmoral staff have been banned from social activity and the annual Ghillies Ball has also been cancelled due to coronavirus. 

Aberdeen’s lockdown is six days after parts of the North West of England were also put back under restrictions.

Some 4.5million people in Manchester and surrounding areas face £100 fines if they breach reimposed lockdown rules that come into force at midnight. 

The new laws include a ban on sex with anyone who does not live with them, with people only allowed to stay overnight with someone from another household if they were previously in a support bubble with them.

Ministers signed off the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions on Gatherings) (North of England) Regulations 2020 which sees a heavier shutdown re-imposed in Greater Manchester, parts of east Lancashire and West Yorkshire after a massive surge in cases in the area.

They had originally said the rules would be effective from midnight on July 31.  Anyone found flouting them could be fined £100 and up to £3,200 for repeat offences.

They prevent people from meeting those they do not live with inside homes or public settings like ‘pubs, restaurants, cafes, shops, places of worship, community centres, leisure and entertainment venues, or visitor attractions’. 

But ‘support bubbles’ formed from two households, where one of them is a single person living alone, or a single parent family will still be allowed to meet up indoors.

And outdoor groups of up to six people will be allowed to meet socially distanced outdoors in public spaces – but not gardens.

A localised approach to tackling the crisis has been adopted by Downing Street.

It came as local coronavirus contact-tracing teams were set up in the worst-affected part of England to plug holes left by the creaking national test and trace system, it was revealed yesterday.

Staff from Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council said its staff will use their local knowledge to help find people who have come into contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus. 

Details will be passed on to the local service if the national NHS Test and Trace system cannot make contact with a local resident after two days of trying.

A home visit from the local public protection team will take place if another 48 hour passes and the resident has not responded by email, text or phone.

The announcement came as ministers admitted the struggling national coronavirus contact tracing system must improve – but insisted schools will reopen in September despite fears of a catastrophic second peak. 

Scientists said the only way of bringing back schools and avoiding another crisis around Christmas was to ramp up dramatically the NHS test and trace operation.

To prevent a second wave when schools reopen, the NHS contact tracing system must reach 68 per cent of cases and their contacts, according to researchers from University College London and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

But the current NHS system is ‘not good enough’ as it reaches just half of contacts and only a fraction of symptomatic cases are tested.

Groups of Friday drinkers flocked to Manchester’s pubs and bars on the hottest day of the year with beer gardens rammed despite the Government introducing new lockdown measures.

As temperatures rose across the country, people were seen standing close together in pubs, contrary to recommendations from the government. And similar temperatures are expected again this weekend.  

Eighty per cent of new Covid-19 cases in one badly-hit part of Greater Manchester are among white people, according to a local official.

Councillors in other parts of the North West — including Blackburn — have warned spikes in coronavirus cases are being driven by the Asian community.

But Eleanor Roaf, director of public health in Trafford, says cases in the borough — home to 235,000 people — are centered in the ‘nice leafy suburbs’.

She fears a ‘complacent white middle class’ will wrongly believe the disease is ‘not affecting them because it’s about overcrowding in ethnic minority families’.

Official NHS figures show the infection rate in Trafford, one of the wealthiest of the 10 boroughs in Greater Manchester, is now starting to decline.

The borough saw 32.6 cases for every 100,000 people between July 26 and August 1 — 10 per cent lower than the week before.

Separate data released on Friday showed Trafford’s infection rate had tripled in just one week, from 10.2 to 36.8.

Only one authority in Greater Manchester — Wigan — is not named in the list of the 20 areas with the highest infection rates in England.

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