Glasgow may be facing weeks more of tougher lockdown to stem Indian variant

·3-min read
Protestors in Glasgow gathered in solidarity with the people of Palestine amid ongoing conflict in Gaza  - Getty Images Europe
Protestors in Glasgow gathered in solidarity with the people of Palestine amid ongoing conflict in Gaza - Getty Images Europe

Glasgow may be facing weeks more of tougher lockdown restrictions to tackle the spread of the Covid Indian variant, Scotland's national clinical director has warned ahead of lockdown being eased on Monday across most of the rest of the country.

Jason Leitch said existing restrictions “may well” last longer than a week and the situation remained "fragile" as case rates continue to climb.

He said Nicola Sturgeon's decision to keep Glasgow in Level 3 - only three days after stating it would go to Level 2 - was made due to past experience where delaying moves to halt the spread of Covid-19 “rarely works”.

The latest weekly average Covid rate in the city is 94.5 cases per 100,000 people, nearly double the Level 2 benchmark of 50.

East Renfrewshire has seen its case rate jump to 75.4, overtaking Moray (58.4), where an outbreak not thought to have involved the more transmissible Indian variant appeared to have stabilised.

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Nicola Sturgeon announced on Friday that Glasgow and Moray are to remain in Level 3 on Monday, while the rest of the mainland go to Level 2 and some islands to Level 1.

People are advised not to travel in or out of the two council areas and their 730,000 residents will not be allowed to meet up in one another's homes or hug loved ones.

From Monday, up to six people from three households in the rest of the country can socialise indoors in a private home or garden without physical distancing.

Other than in Glasgow and Moray, pubs can open and sell alcohol indoors until 10.30pm in two-hour booked slots. Local licensing laws will apply outdoors.

Ms Sturgeon's last-minute about-turn prompted fury from Glasgow's hospitality trade, which had spent thousands of pounds on stock and staff to get themselves ready for reopening.

Her announcement came as Boris Johnson refused to pause the lifting of restrictions on Monday in Bolton and Blackburn, two Indian variant hotspots in England, despite the former having a Covid rate nearly three times that of Glasgow.

David Greenhalgh, the Conservative leader of Bolton Council, argued imposing local restrictions could be counter productive – creating an incentive to move around and potentially spread the new variant further.

Jason Leitch, Scotland's national clinical director - Reuters
Jason Leitch, Scotland's national clinical director - Reuters

Prof Leitch told BBC Scotland's The Sunday Show "it may well be" that Glasgow would have to remain in level three for longer than an extra week.

He said the Scottish Government’s clinical advisers would continue to meet during the week before a decision is made and urged the city's residents to get tested.

"It was really down to the wire on what was the right thing to do, but we have learned in Scotland and around the world that acting fast and hard always works. Delay rarely works and that is why we gave the advice we did," he said.

“I think we should watch and be cautious and careful. We have decided with advice that on Monday the rest of the country is safe to move to the next stage. We all said that the hugging, the increased hospitality, that should all be done very cautiously.”

He said text messages were going out to younger age groups in the worst-affected Glasgow postcodes, inviting them to be vaccinated.

Prof Leitch said work was ongoing to identify those who did not previously come forward for their first dose, and he also urged people to take up offers of the second dose.

However, he said the success of the vaccination programme meant there was no evidence yet that the upturn in cases would lead to significant increases in deaths or pressures on the NHS.