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Coronavirus Scotland Nicola Sturgeon says R rate has gone UP

An Aberdeen football player has tested positive for coronavirus following a spike in cases in the city which has forced 200,000 people into Scotland’s first local lockdown. 

The club’s training was cancelled today after a follow up swab confirmed the player’s initial positive test. Players in the Scottish Premiership are being tested twice a week for the disease under new rules.

It makes him the first player to be diagnosed with the virus since the football season north of the border resumed on August 1. Scotland’s health chiefs have chosen not to name the player.

Aberdeen was locked down yesterday after cases doubled in 24 hours, with 39 – more than half – of the 67 new cases across Scotland on Thursday in the Grampian health board area. 

Some 25 new cases were linked to the cluster today, a 46 per cent increase on yesterday bringing the total to 79. 

Nicola Sturgeon admitted today the coronavirus reproduction rate – the average number of people each Covid-19 patient infects – in Scotland may have risen to as high as one.

The First Minister said the R-rate for the county had risen to between 0.6 and one following the surge in cases in Aberdeen and an uptick in infections in Glasgow and Clyde. 

Scientists say keeping the R below one is critical in order to keep the epidemic squashed. The R is estimated to be between 0.7 and 0.9 across the whole of the UK.

Ms Sturgeon said she expects to be reporting a rise in the number of people infected in Aberdeen on Friday, despite putting pubs, restaurants and other businesses back into mothballs.  

‘I know that this is a real blow to the city and all of us regret that we’ve had to take this position, but I do believe that people understand why it is necessary,’ she said.

‘There are just too many uncertainties about this outbreak right now so we are not yet confident that we can keep it under control without these additional measures.’

In other coronavirus developments today:

She added that 17 new cases in Greater Glasgow and Clyde are being examined to see if there are any visible patterns. 

The new cases take the Scottish total to 18,847 and mark the highest single day rise for more than two months. 

But Ms Sturgeon said there have now been no deaths reported of people who tested positive for the virus for three weeks, with the total remaining at 2,491. 

The Aberdeen outbreak was first revealed on Sunday, linked to the Hawthorn Bar on Holburn Street, with a list of other pubs and bars potentially involved published on Wednesday. 

New lockdown measures came into force at 5pm on Wednesday, forcing all pubs, bars and restaurants in the Aberdeen City Council area to again close their doors. 

The First Minister said: ‘If you have been to any of these premises, even if Test and Protect hasn’t been in touch with you, we’re still asking you to be extra vigilant for symptoms.’ 

Further restrictions mean residents cannot visit each other’s homes – outside of extended household groups – and they cannot travel further than five miles for leisure.

Ms Sturgeon said people in the city council area should not go on holiday and people outside the area should not travel there – including people who live in Aberdeenshire, except those who need to travel for work. 

The First Minister told the briefing that there was consideration being given to extending some of the lockdown measures to Aberdeenshire. 

She said: ‘We are very, very mindful of the close integral links between Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, and therefore we are looking carefully at whether there is at any stage a case that can be made for extending the restrictions that currently apply in Aberdeen city to areas within Aberdeenshire.’ 

She also urged people contacted by the Test and Protect teams, in Aberdeen or anywhere else in Scotland, to comply with the advice they are given. 

Interim chief medical officer Dr Gregor Smith told the briefing that Test and Protect teams in Aberdeen had established links between those who were infected with the virus and foreign travel, although he said it is not clear if this contributed to their catching the virus. 

He added: ‘Just because you’ve had foreign travel doesn’t mean to say that this is where you contracted the infection. We’ll only know the sources of each of these cases in the fullness of time.’ 

Ms Sturgeon concluded by thanking the people of Aberdeen for their co-operation, adding: ‘I know that this is a real blow to the city and all of us regret that we’ve had to take this position, but I do believe that people understand why it is necessary. ‘

There are just too many uncertainties about this outbreak right now so we are not yet confident that we can keep it under control without these additional measures.’ 

The First Minister also defended the contact-tracing process, following reports that some premises mentioned in the list of bars and restaurants had not been contacted by health officials. 

She said the Test and Protect team would make judgments on who needed to be contacted based in individual cases, saying: ‘I would ask people to be understanding of the complex, fast-moving nature of the situations that local public health teams are dealing with.’ 

Ms Sturgeon said the reproduction rate of the virus has risen to between 0.6 and one, compared to the most recent estimate of between 0.6 and 0.9. 

However, she said that as the number of cases drop, the reproduction number becomes less reliable. As of last week, some 275 people in Scotland were infectious, she added. 

On Thursday, 270 people were in hospital with confirmed Covid-19, the First Minister said, up by three in 24 hours. Of these, four were in intensive care – an increase of one. 

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.

Pub crawls could be banned across Scotland to prevent the spread of coronavirus after an outbreak of cases linked to bars. 

The First Minister yesterday said her government was researching how to tighten up rules for hospitality businesses because ‘it could be that what we see here is a pattern which involves people going from one pub to another in the same night’.  

Contact tracing is continuing in Aberdeen, with the Scottish government’s health minister saying that getting schools reopened in the city as scheduled next Tuesday is a priority but warned additional measures may be required if necessary.

Jeane Freeman told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland radio programme it was important to recognise the complexity of the cluster – in comparison with similar outbreaks in Inverclyde and Lanarkshire – with the number of venues involved.

Ms Freeman said: ‘It is unlikely that one person has been to all 28 or so venues that have been named – what is more likely is that more than one person has been to more than one venue.

‘That is part of the complexity of this, the nature of it if you think about some of the other outbreaks that we have responded to, and traced right through to the end of the transmission chain.

‘In some ways, they’re all very very important but in some ways they have been less complex than this, which is largely centred around the night-time economy in Aberdeen and could be the night-time economy in any city or town.

‘It is complicated to know exactly where everyone has been and that’s part of test and protect, which of course we need to remember is still under way, we’ve not concluded this yet.’

Asked about the process being carried out before schools in the city return next week, she said: ‘It depends on how quickly the technical problems can be resolved and importantly that our senior statistician confirms that he is confident that that data is robust.

‘The priority is to get the schools back, we’re being really clear about that as a priority across the country as it’s one of the most important things that we that we do.

‘If there is a need for additional measures to help us do that, either in the north east or anywhere else, then I think you’ve seen that we are prepared to take those additional steps.

‘But right at the moment there is nothing to tell me that we need to do more in Aberdeen city that we have already done.’

The new restrictions ordered all indoor and outdoor hospitality venues to close by 5pm on Wednesday, prevent residents visiting each other’s homes and impose a five-mile travel limit.

Ms Freeman also said discussions had taken place on Wednesday with leaders of both Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire councils. 

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