Youngsters are one of the ‘biggest risks’ as Covid cases increase again

Young people are to be targeted in a campaign to tackle a fresh rise in coronavirus across Scotland after the number of cases linked to an outbreak in Aberdeen rose by 25.

A pedestrian walks on an empty street in Aberdeen

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon described younger Scots as the “one of the biggest risk areas” as it emerged 20 to 40-year-olds account for the bulk of the cases in the outbreak, which now number 79.

Ministers are also “actively considering” the prospect of changing guidance or laws that could result in pub crawls being banned to stem emerging clusters, Ms Sturgeon told the Scottish Government’s daily coronavirus briefing. More than half of the 67 new cases across Scotland which emerged yesterday were in the Grampian health board area, at 39.

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A further 17 new cases in Greater Glasgow and Clyde are being examined to see whether there are any visible patterns.

Ms Sturgeon revealed that, unlike in earlier stages of the pandemic in Scotland, younger Scots account for most of the emerging cases.

She said: “We are now seeing an increasing number of positive cases being in a relatively younger age group and by that broadly speaking what I’m talking about is the under 40s - 20 to 40.”

Insisted she was not blaming young people for the recent outbreaks, the SNP leader added: “I wouldn’t be doing my job properly if I didn’t point out the trends that we are now able to identify through all of this data.”

Ms Sturgeon insisted it was “perfectly understandable” that the younger age group would want to meet up with friends after the reopening of pubs following months of lockdown.

But she warned: “What the data is telling us is that that is maybe becoming one of our biggest risk areas.”

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said a more targeted campaign will be launched to get the message across to young people.

She said: “We’re now actively looking at the moment at how we communicate across different age groups across Scotland. The messages are the same but there are different ways of communicating that message to different groups of people, different channels, but also different individuals to communicate that message.

“It’s a very long time since I’ve been one of those people and I know, for example, me communicating those messages, I won’t be hitting the right spot, but there are other people who can do that and do it better.

“That work is under way so that we target our communications. It’s the same message, it’s all about keeping the virus suppressed, but do it in a way that people will hear it in different age groups across the country.”

There have now been no daily deaths reported for three weeks of people who have tested positive for the virus in the previous 28 days in Scotland, with the total by that measure remaining at 2,491.

The number of people in hospital rose by three to 270 yesterday, with just four people in intensive care.

The Aberdeen outbreak has been linked to the Hawthorn Bar on Holburn Street, with a list of other pubs and bars potentially involved published on Wednesday.

New lockdown measures came into force at 5pm on Wednesday, forcing all pubs, bars and restaurants in the Aberdeen City Council area to close their doors.

Further restrictions mean residents cannot visit each other’s homes - outside of extended household groups - and they cannot travel further than five miles for leisure.

Ms Sturgeon said people in the city council area should not go on holiday and people outside the area should not travel there - including people who live in Aberdeenshire, except those who need to travel for work.

The First Minister said there was consideration being given to extending some of the lockdown measures to Aberdeenshire.

She said: “We are very, very mindful of the close integral links between Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, and therefore we are looking carefully at whether there is at any stage a case that can be made for extending the restrictions that currently apply in Aberdeen city to areas within Aberdeenshire.”

She also urged people contacted by the Test and Protect teams, in Aberdeen or anywhere else in Scotland, to comply with the advice they are given.

Interim chief medical officer Dr Gregor Smith told the briefing that Test and Protect teams in Aberdeen had established links between those who were infected with the virus and foreign travel, although he said it is not clear if this contributed to their catching the virus.

He added: “Just because you’ve had foreign travel doesn’t mean to say that this is where you contracted the infection. We’ll only know the sources of each of these cases in the fullness of time.”

Ms Sturgeon concluded by thanking the people of Aberdeen for their co-operation, adding: “I know that this is a real blow to the city and all of us regret that we’ve had to take this position, but I do believe that people understand why it is necessary.”

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