Aberdeen's partial lockdown extended into third week

Lockdown restrictions in Aberdeen are being extended into a third week, the first minister has confirmed.

Bars and restaurants will have to remain shut, while restrictions on travelling more than five miles and meeting others indoors remain in force.

The measures were imposed a fortnight ago in response to a cluster of coronavirus cases linked to several hospitality venues in the city.

The numbers have fallen drastically in recent days as the effect of the lockdown kicks in - but not enough to convince Nicola Sturgeon to lift any measures at this stage.

Since yesterday, 15 cases have been confirmed in Grampian. Eight are in Aberdeen city and three in Aberdeenshire - this data does not match the health board information as not all cases are assigned to a council area.

Ms Sturgeon says the cluster linked to bars in Aberdeen is now under control, but the wider outbreak in the community is not yet.

However, she hopes to start lifting the restrictions by next Wednesday - particularly in lower-risk places like non-licensed cafes - with a further review being held this Sunday to give some certainty to businesses ahead of that date.

Meanwhile a £1 million support fund has been announced for firms in the city affected by the localised lockdown, which will be administered by Aberdeen City Council.

It comes despite calls from the co-leaders of the council to remove the restrictions this weekend.

Councillor Jenny Laing, co-leader at Aberdeen City Council, said: "At our meeting with Scottish Government officials yesterday we heard from the local Covid-19 outbreak incident management team that they believed the situation is now under adequate control and mitigation measures can be put in place to allow lower risk settings to open on Saturday August 22, subject to site-specific assessments. I can confirm that the council is ready to make these site-specific assessments to allow businesses to open.

"It is apparent that Covid-19 has already had a significant impact on our local economy and continuing with the current restrictions is only going to make a bad economic situation even worse

"The continued closure of restaurants, cafes and bars is hurting not just those businesses directly affected but it is having a serious impact on a number of other sectors, including retail, which has reported a 60% drop in footfall since the restrictions were introduced.

"The perception and reputation of Aberdeen is being damaged the longer this goes on and as the incident management team has shown with proper safeguards in place Aberdeen can and should be allowed to begin lifting the restrictions on Saturday."

Co-leader Douglas Lumsden said: "The Grampian Covid-19 incident management team also proposed that the statutory restrictions on movement and statutory restrictions on gatherings should be removed on Saturday, subject to ongoing epidemiological review.

"This was because the local incident management team recognised there was no information to support an acceleration of Covid-19 incidence in vulnerable populations at risk of severe adverse disease outcomes.

"The first minister must be aware of the harm extending the lockdown is doing to both our citizens and our economy. Evidence shows that Aberdeen has been disproportionately affected by Covid-19 and using PACE notifications, it shows there are 5,100 jobs at risk of redundancy from 70 employers, across various sectors, including hospitality. 

"This is the highest in Scotland, and three times the level of the second ranked authority area (Aberdeenshire, 1,800 posts)."

More from North East Scotland News