Nicola Sturgeon today sounded the alarm after coronavirus cases in Scotland hit a three-month high.
The Scottish First Minister said the numbers were ‘undoubtedly a concern’ and she feels ‘a greater sense of anxiety today’ than at any time ‘probably for the last couple of months’.
In the last 24 hours, 160 new cases of Covid-19 have been recorded north of the border with Ms Sturgeon admitting Scotland is in a ‘fragile position’ after loosening lockdown rules.
It is the highest daily total of cases since May 16 and a significant increase on the 123 cases which were announced on Sunday.
The latest statistics bring the total number of cases since the start of the pandemic in Scotland to 20,478.
Despite the rising number of cases, no deaths have been recorded in almost a week, with the number of fatalities remaining at 2,494.
In comparison, the UK as a whole today recorded 1,406 new cases of coronavirus along with two deaths, taking the official total of victims to 41,501.
Nicola Sturgeon told her daily coronavirus briefing that she now feels ‘a greater sense of anxiety today than I have done any time probably for the last couple of months’ after an increase in case numbers
Fury at ‘petty’ Nicola Sturgeon after she demands ‘Britain’ and ‘UK’ are dropped from branding of £120m national festival
Nicola Sturgeon was branded ‘petty’ today for demanding the words ‘UK’ and ‘Britain’ are dropped from the branding for a nationwide festival.
The Scottish Government has objected to the working title of ‘UK Festival 2022’ for the event – aimed at celebrating the best of Britain.
Initially announced by former Prime Minister Theresa May in 2018, planning is well under way for the £120million celebration.
At the time, Mrs May said it would help to strengthen ‘our precious Union’ with events to take place across the four nations.
But it emerged yesterday that the plans have stalled after the SNP Government failed to approve the use of ‘UK’ and ‘Britain’ in branding for promotional materials.
Whitehall insiders say the cultural festival, which will celebrate achievements in fields including science, technology and engineering, will bring £12million to Scotland, with the creative contracts worth an additional £3million.
However, the contracts have been delayed due to the disagreement and sources say bids cannot be put out to tender until an agreement is reached.
A UK Government source said: ‘The Scottish Government are causing unnecessary delays because they want to remove all references to Britain or the UK when we launch the next phase.
‘It is incredibly petty and hugely frustrating. The creative sector is crying out for support right now.’
The wrangling comes amid a high-stakes battle over the future of the union, with polls showing the coronavirus crisis has boosted support for independence north of the border.
Ms Sturgeon says she has put aside the issue during the chaos, with planning for a fresh vote ‘paused’, but has faced accusations of trying to use the situation for political advantage.
The majority of new cases in Scotland are in the central belt, with 69 in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board area while 27 are in Lanarkshire.
Speaking during her daily coronavirus briefing in Edinburgh, Ms Sturgeon said the ‘quite high’ numbers of new cases were ‘partly a result of greater numbers of people being tested’ and she stressed the proportion of people testing positive was still below one per cent.
But she added: ‘The number of cases we are seeing right now is a reminder to all of us the virus is still a very real risk, it is a development that concerns me and it is one we are taking very seriously.
‘We mustn’t lose sight of how important it is if we are to keep schools open, build economic recovery and retain a bit more normality in our lives that we do continue to suppress the virus and push as close to elimination of it as we possibly can.’
Ms Sturgeon said not all of the new cases were linked to larger outbreaks, saying the rise of cases in Greater Glasgow and Clyde ‘seems to reflect a number of small clusters, rather than one or two more significant outbreaks’.
She said an incident management team was looking at a cluster of 22 cases in Ayrshire and Arran, many of which she said ‘seem to be linked to indoor gatherings that took place the previous weekend’.
A cluster in Hawick in the Scottish borders had increased to 15 people, she added, with a mobile testing unit in place in the town, and there are now 188 cases linked to the 2 Sisters food processing plant in Coupar Angus.
Scotland took more steps out of lockdown today, with the opening of gyms and indoor swimming pools and the resumption of youth groups such as Cubs and Brownies and mother and baby groups.
The First Minister said ‘many people’ had been looking forward to gyms and pools reopening, adding that the move would be a ‘major relief’ for people who work in the leisure sector.
She added: ‘The reopening is a further welcome step in getting back to normal, it is important for wider health and wellbeing.
‘But it also obviously brings risks, there is no getting away from that, and that is why we have delayed this until now.’
Ms Sturgeon added: ‘The figures we are seeing just now for new cases demonstrate very clearly that this virus is still present across the country, it will spread rapidly if it gets the chance.’
Concluding the briefing, Ms Sturgeon issued a plea for people to ‘think very carefully about how you’re living your life at the moment’ as she revealed anxiety about the ‘fragile’ state of coronavirus suppression.
Reflecting on the past seven months, she said: ‘There have been some really dark moments along the way since the start of March and, more recently, there have been moments of greater hope and optimism.
‘I have always tried to be frank with you about my assessments and feelings about the situation that we are in, which is why I feel able to say to you today – and feel that it is important I say to you – that I feel a greater sense of anxiety today than I have done any time probably for the last couple of months.
‘We are in a fragile position; we have substantially lifted the lockdown restrictions but in doing so we’ve allowed this virus opportunities to spread.’