Doubt over Covid-19 lockdown easing after ‘disgraceful’ Rangers fans celebrations, warns Chief Medical Officer

Gatherings by thousands of Rangers fans at the weekend have cast doubt on Scotland’s easing of Covid-19 restrictions, the Chief Medical Officer has said.

Police made 28 arrests after fans congregated in Glasgow’s George Square and outside Ibrox to celebrate Rangers’ first Scottish Premiership title in 10 years.

Speaking at the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing on Monday, Deputy First Minister John Swinney congratulated the club on their win and praised those who celebrated at home but said the behaviour of some fans was an “absolute disgrace”.

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Asked if the gatherings could delay any future easing of lockdown restrictions in Scotland, Chief Medical Officer Gregor Smith said the weekend’s events had “sown a seed of doubt” in his mind.

Rangers fans gather in George Square to celebrate the club winning the Scottish Premiership for the first time in 10 years,

He added that it will be two to three weeks “before we really see the impact of what happened at the weekend translated through to the data.”

“Whenever you see large groups of people coming together like this there is always a risk that there is an uptick in infections,” he said.

"So we will be watching very closely over the next few weeks to see exactly what impact that has had on the infection rates we are seeing.”

Mr Swinney said the gatherings may lead to “difficult decisions” on the part of the Scottish Government.

Handout photo issued by Scottish Government showing Interim Chief Medical Officer for Scotland, Dr Gregor Smith. speaking at a coronavirus briefing at St Andrews House in Edinburgh.

"We have said that we will be driven by data, and if the data goes in the wrong direction because of what went on at the weekend, that will have an effect on our decision making,” he said.

“We’ve been absolutely transparent about this, that it will be the data that drives our decisions. So if the data suddenly, because of all that commotion at the weekend, goes in the wrong direction, we will have difficult decisions to make as a consequence.

“There are consequences to all of these events.”

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Rangers FC: John Swinney brands Glasgow celebrations an ‘absolute disgrace’ and ...

Mr Swinney labelled the conduct of fans who flouted the restrictions “shameful”.

“Events like yesterday risk spreading the virus and they show no regard or respect at all for the millions of households across Scotland who have been sticking to the rules, who haven’t been able to meet up with friends and families to fully celebrate birthdays and other milestones or, in some cases, to attend funeral services of their loved ones,” he said on Monday.

In a statement, Rangers said the club understands the “jubilance” of fans, and highlighted “frustration” over the closure of stadiums.

“During the last number of weeks, Rangers can confirm that we initiated open dialogue with key stakeholders in relation to the possibility of us achieving a historic 55th league title,” they said.

“We have proactively engaged with our local MP, the Justice Minister, the Scottish Government, Police Scotland and the SPFL in relation to maintaining a cohesive message regarding public safety during the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Police Scotland Chief Superintendent Mark Sutherland, divisional commander for Greater Glasgow, said officers were “faced with a very difficult set of circumstances”, as “many thousands of supporters gathered to celebrate across a number of different venues.”

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