People living in parts of Dumfries and Galloway will be effectively cordoned off due to a new “complex” outbreak, the First Minister said today.
Those living in Gretna, Annan, Dumfries, Lockerbie, Langholm and Canonbie will be among the only people in Scotland unable to drive more than five miles for leisure activities due to the outbreak announced on Wednesday.
The rest of Scotland will be able to drive as far as they like from tomorrow (July 3), as restrictions around self-catering accommodation and visiting second homes are also relaxed tomorrow.
The measure is the first of its type to be imposed locally rather than nationally in Scotland, but Nicola Sturgeon made clear it was not a “local lockdown” similar to the one seen in Leicester in England this week.
A total of ten positive cases have been identified, the First Minister said, and staff at three workplaces with connection to those cases are in the process of being tested today.
Ms Sturgeon said she was “hopeful” the outbreak would be contained, but said the government must act on a “precautionary basis”.
She implored those living in the affected area to continue to follow the five mile travel guidance until after the weekend to allow for contract tracing and testing to be completed.
She said: “We are very hopeful that this outbreak will be contained - and I should stress there is no evidence at this stage to suggest otherwise. But until contact tracing and testing has been completed, we cannot be absolutely sure of that.
“If you have plans to travel into these areas over the weekend to visit or stay, you should follow the travel advice while there. If you run a business in these areas, including at the Gretna Gateway Outlet Village, please be extra vigilant about hygiene and physical distancing. In addition, care homes in those five areas will unfortunately not be able to welcome visitors this weekend.
“And generally, to people in these areas - until we conclude the management of this outbreak, please assume there is a higher risk of infection just now and take particular care to follow all public health advice.
“And remember, I’m sorry about this, the five mile limit means you should not travel to pubs south of the border this weekend.
“I know this will not be welcome news for people in these areas, and I’m sorry about that. But this outbreak is sharply reminding us just how highly infectious COVID is, and how vital it is that we proceed with care and caution.”
Jason Leitch, the Scottish Government’s national clinical director, said the effective cordon underlined the importance of the rules in place across Scotland and said the outbreak was likely down to rules being broken.
He said: “It underlines the rules, and this is really difficult, particularly on a day where we are discussing releasing some of the rules for children and it’s a hopeful day for many families who will be able to do more tomorrow, over the weekend and into next week.
“But most clusters of this size, when the history is written, suggest that guidelines may not have been strictly adhered to. I don’t know that for sure in this cluster but that is usually what happens.
“So I really implore you to obey the guidelines as best you can. If you follow them, your risk is lower, if you don’t, your risk is higher, it is as simple as that.
“You can see how quickly, within a matter of days, we can have ten positives and an increasing number of contacts which gets harder and harder to trace and already we have had to take steps to make Dumfries and Galloway look a little bit different from the rest of the country and we don’t want to do that.”
Professor Leitch also offered a rebuke to rulebreakers, saying that not following the rules would also lead to outbreaks taking up much-needed resources.
He said: “If you don’t follow the guidelines, you tie up resources. In the last three days we have used health protection teams, lots of contact tracers, a chief executive of a health board who should be remobilising his health service, Scottish Government resources as well as mobile testing units.
“I understand that it is no one person’s fault and we don’t want blame and I don’t want you looking for people to blame, but if you disobey the guidelines, that is what happens, we have to redirect resources in order to manage that outbreak.”
The postcodes affected by the restriction on travel are: the Scottish section of DG16 (Gretna), DG12 (Annan), DG1 and DG2 (Dumfries), DG11 (Lockerbie), DG13 (Langholm), and DG14 (Canonbie).
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