Glasgow and Moray will remain in Level 3 of Scotland’s five-tier system of coronavirus restrictions on Monday as the rest of the mainland drops to Level 2, Nicola Sturgeon has announced.
These areas will remain at the higher level for a further week, the First Minister told MSPs at Holyrood.
The announcement came after Glasgow overtook Moray as Scotland’s Covid hotspot, and an epidemiologist warned the country is seeing a “loss of control” of the pandemic in some areas.
Latest figures published on Friday showed there were 80.4 cases per 100,000 people in Glasgow in the seven days to May 11, pushing it ahead of Moray where there were 68.9.
Moray saw a surge in cases which started in April and it had the highest rate in Scotland in recent days.
Speaking to MSPs in Holyrood on Friday, the First Minister said the situation, which she described as a “bump in the road”, would be reviewed at the end of next week.
She also went on to say the Indian variant was detected in cases in Glasgow, which caused increased concern among public health advisers and the Scottish Government.
“We do not yet have a full understanding of the impact of this variant, including on the protection afforded by the vaccines – however I do want to stress that nothing at this stage suggests it is causing more severe illness,” she said.
“However, it is thought that this variant could be significantly more transmissible than even the Kent variant that was identified before Christmas – and that alone calls for an appropriate degree of caution.”
Despite the decision, the First Minister told MSPs public health teams were “optimistic that enhanced testing and vaccination will be capable of getting this situation under control”.
Figures in Moray, however, appear to be declining, the First Minister said, adding it was a cause for “cautious optimism”.
The move comes after a leading scientist said it would be premature to lift restrictions, saying that the importation of new variants of the virus were as a result of a “failed border policy”.
Dr Deepti Gurdasani, a clinical epidemiologist and senior lecturer at Queen Mary University of London, told the BBC: “The idea is certainly premature, in fact the Government should be considering the opposite.
“In Scotland as a whole we’ve actually seen the number of new cases double in the last week, and while the cases are so low it’s hard to see exponential rises.
“This is what early exponential rises look like and we’re seeing loss of control of the pandemic in many parts of Scotland, and the situation is likely much wider and other places will follow unless action is taken to actually prevent this and pre-empt this now.”
Scotland has recorded two coronavirus deaths and 215 new cases in the past 24 hours, the latest Scottish Government figures show.
It brings the death toll under this daily measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – to 7,664.
A total of 228,908 have tested positive for the virus and the daily test positivity rate is 1.3%, up from 1.2% the previous day.
Of the 215 new cases, 110 were in the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board area.
This was followed by 37 in NHS Lothian, 21 in NHS Lanarkshire, 16 in NHS Fife and 15 in NHS Grampian – which covers Moray.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We’ve been clear since the beginning of the pandemic that we will continue to follow scientific advice.
“Our plans for careful unlocking take account of the improved situation, while also acknowledging the risks we still face.
“While we intend to take the next steps as a nation together where possible, we stand ready to deploy the revised levels at a more local level if necessary – if prevalence of the virus surges in some parts of Scotland but not others.”