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Coronavirus: Scotland records highest number of new COVID-19 cases in 3 months

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A junior doctor dons PPE to visit a patient.
A junior doctor dons PPE to visit a patient.   -   Copyright  Hannah McKay/Associated Press
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Scotland will remain in phase three of its plan to ease lockdown measures after the number of new COVID-19 cases in the country hit a three-month high, the Scottish government confirmed.

In a statement to the Scottish parliament before First Minister's Questions, Nicola Sturgeon said the easing of lockdown measures would be put on hold in the wake of 77 new confirmed cases of coronavirus in the last 24 hours.

The new cases equate to 1 per cent of those tested for coronavirus on Wednesday, bringing the total number of positive COVID-19 cases in Scotland since the start of the pandemic to 19,534.

"This is the highest number in three months," Sturgeon told MSPs.

R-number above 1

While the number of cases had risen, the prevalence of the virus was deemed to be low across Scotland as a whole.

"However, the range for our R-number has recently increased and our most recent estimates suggest it could currently be above 1," she said.

"Of course, this is partly because when prevalence is generally low, localised outbreaks have a bigger effect on the R-number. That said, though, we must continue to monitor it closely."

As noted in the previous lockdown review three weeks ago, Scotland was averaging 14 news cases a day, which has now risen to 52 new cases a day on average.

"I am not able to indicate today a move from phase three of our lockdown to phase four," Sturgeon said.

"We will remain for now in phase three and I will give notice today that this may well be the case for the next review point too."

The Scottish government is legally obligated to review lockdown measures every three weeks.

In order to move to phase four of the Scottish government's roadmap out of lockdown, Sturgeon advised the government would need to be satisfied "the virus is no longer considered a significant threat to public health."

"As these figures have demonstrated, and has been confirmed to me in advice from the Chief Medical Officer, this is not the case," she added.

Lockdown easing

While phase four has been delayed, the first minister did announce a raft of easing measures, including the opening of swimming pools, gyms and indoor sports halls from August 31. They were originally due to be reopened in mid-September.

Sports stadia, theatres and live music venues could also be opened by September 14, subject to social distancing rules and limits on capacities.

The Scottish government also advised that numbers at weddings and funerals could also be modestly increased by September 14 but will continue to be restricted.

As well as an easing of some restrictions, Sturgeon announced new powers for police in Scotland to break up house parties, saying they posed "a real and significant risk of causing clusters and outbreaks."

Clusters

While the easing of some restrictions was announced on Thursday, the rise of small clusters could see a tightening of localised restrictions in some parts of the country to contain outbreaks of the virus.

Lockdown measures in Aberdeen will remain in place until Sunday after a cluster of 54 cases was traced to a bar in the city. A further 12 cases have been reported but are not believed to be related to the original cluster.

A further significant cluster has also been identified at a food processing plant in Coupar Angus where 42 cases were confirmed so far with the number expected to rise.

"Given the nature and potential scale of this outbreak, we are considering carefully and urgently whether further restrictions are necessary," Sturgeon said.

The first minister also indicated that a number of cases had been reported in schools, which returned to full-time education last week.

Kingspark School in Dundee was closed after eight adults tested positive for the virus. There have also been 16 confirmed cases in a cluster linked to a school in northeast Glasgow.