Restrictions imposed on Aberdeen to contain an outbreak of Covid-19 will not be lifted until Sunday at the earliest, the First Minister has said.
Nicola Sturgeon confirmed the extension of the renewed lockdown measures for the city, despite opposition from Aberdeen City Council who said they did not support the decision.
The decision means indoor gatherings between households, the five mile travel limit, and the closure of all outdoor and indoor hospitality will be extended.
It came as the number of cases in NHS Grampian today rose to 15, meaning a total of 398 cases of Covid-19 in the area, of which 226 are linked to the original outbreak in pubs and bars.
However the Scottish Government will review the decision in its first ‘mid-week’ review of the restrictions, the results of which will be announced on Sunday.
Ms Sturgeon said the decision had been made because it was “not yet safe” to reopen the city and warned restrictions could be lifted at a slow pace rather than all at once with lower risk premises such as non-licensed cafes high on the list of potential businesses that could reopen.
Speaking at the daily coronavirus briefing, the First Minister said she was not “in a position to say that this outbreak is over or completely under control”.
She added that while there was evidence the initial cluster is being contained, a number of individual cases and other smaller clusters in the city needed to be “monitored carefully”.
Ms Sturgeon said: “It is really important that at this stage in the pandemic that we continue to take a precautionary approach.
"Our hope is that by sticking with these restrictions for a little bit longer and ensuring that this outbreak is firmly under control, both the cluster and the more sporadic cases that we have been seeing in Aberdeen, we can avoid further more severe restrictions in the future.”
As part of her briefing the First Minister announced a £1m fund for businesses in Aberdeen, mainly to support hospitality businesses which have been forced to shut due to the new restrictions.
She said she accepted that the restrictions have been “exceptionally tough” for everybody in Aberdeen with the fund providing grants of up to £1,500 for hospitality businesses which have closed.
Co-leader of Aberdeen City Council, Cllr Jenny Laing, said she and the coalition of Conservative, Labour and independent councillors running the city did not support the decision to keep it under lockdown.
She said: “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 decision worse.”
Co-leader Douglas Lumsden added: "The First Minister must be aware of the harm extending the lockdown is doing to both our citizens and our economy."
He claimed the area had been "disproportionately affected by Covid-19", and notifications to the Scottish Government's Pace (Partnership Action for Continuing Employment) scheme shows 5,100 workers across 70 companies are now at risk of redundancy.
Ms Laing added a meeting with Scottish Government officials on Tuesday had heard from the incident management team that "they believed the situation is now under adequate control" for premises to start to open up again from Saturday, subject to mitigating measures being put in place and site-specific assessments.