Hospitality groups call for more notice ahead of latest review of Covid level restrictions in Glasgow and East Renfrewshire

Businesses have demanded more notice of changing restrictions ahead of the latest review today, as East Renfrewshire overtakes Glasgow as Scotland’s Covid hotspot.

Nicola Sturgeon is due to give an announcement on Friday about whether Glasgow and Moray, which are both in Level 3, will be able to ease restrictions, and if any other areas should be moved back up.

Yesterday, Scotland recorded the highest daily case total since March on Thursday, at 432 new cases.

The rate of cases in East Renfrewshire has risen to 118.3 per 100,000, though the area dropped to Level 2 on Monday where indoor hospitality is permitted. This has pushed it ahead of Glasgow, which remains in Level 3, and saw case rates rise to 112.1 per 100,000.

The latest review of coronavirus levels is set to be announced today

Business and hospitality groups in Glasgow called for any decision about restrictions to be given with more notice than last week, when an announcement which came into force on Monday was made shortly before 5pm on Friday.

"Many of our hospitality members were badly hit financially, with one restaurant owner telling us he had lost around £12,000 in staff and perishable food costs in one establishment alone,” said Glasgow Chamber of Commerce deputy chief executive Richard Muir.

He added: “This cannot be allowed to happen again. For tomorrow and other future restriction updates, we need longer notice of changes, enough to give businesses the chance to make appropriate logistical decisions."

Andrew McRae, Scotland policy chair of the Federation of Small Businesses, said firms in Glasgow and Moray felt “badly let down” by the Scottish Government last week.

"While the news was bad, the timing was awful,” he said.

"The business community will understandably be very nervous about what they’re going to hear next.

“The bare minimum that local and independent businesses should expect is adequate notice of changes to the plan, alongside sufficient financial support. This week, some hospitality businesses in Glasgow faced a heartbreaking dilemma when they realised they couldn’t furlough the staff they’d taken on for re-opening.”

Paul Waterson of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association meanwhile said the decision about Glasgow last week came as a “real shock”.

“To be told on Friday that you’re not going to get open on Friday was just a ridiculous situation,” he said.

"Even looking at the health versus business argument, there should have been some notice given.

“It’s going to be the same now, we’ve got to wait for an announcement at the end of the week from the First Minister, and we don’t know what the position is.

“You can’t just open up or close down within three days without it costing a lot of money.”

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Scotland now has 136 cases of the B.1.617.2 variant discovered in India, which may be linked to the Glasgow outbreak.

Door-to-door testing has been launched in Pollokshields, one of the most affected areas of Glasgow, as well as surge vaccination for all over 18s. Nationwide test positivity is still relatively low, however, at 1.6 per cent.

Parents of S4 to S6 children at three schools in Glasgow’s southside – Shawlands Academy, Holyrood Secondary and Bellahouston Academy – have been told to keep children at home.

Dr Toni Ho, a Consultant and Clinical Senior Lecturer in Infectious Diseases at Glasgow University, said she believed any easing in Glasgow should be delayed for a couple of weeks, and added restrictions should be tightened in East Renfrewshire.

“I think to delay for a couple of weeks to get on top of it, to avoid a third [level four] lockdown, has to be the main goal,” she said.

Dr Ho said she has “real sympathy” with businesses who have been hit hard by the restrictions, but said a pause in restrictions easing now could prevent more harm in the long run.

The situation in Midlothian is not as clear-cut, she said, although case numbers have dropped so much in Moray that a move to Level 2 is likely.

Glasgow and Lothian health boards declined to comment on whether local case rates indicate a need for increased restrictions.

NHS Grampian, however, said there was cause for “cautious optimism” in Moray.

Dr Ho said officials need time to understand whether the new variant is more transmissible, and if current vaccines work against it, which she is hopeful they will.

“We're gathering information really quickly, so I think in a week or two we will be in a much better position to make recommendations to go down to tier two,” she said.

“It seems counterintuitive to allow more mixing when case numbers are rising in Glasgow.”

Scotland is trying to “buy time”, she said, until everyone has been vaccinated.

“We're not quite there yet, there are still huge pockets of people who are who have not yet been vaccinated and are vulnerable and enough people to cause big outbreaks - particularly if this variant turns out to be more transmissible,” she said.

“I'm hoping this is a short term measure whilst we're continuing the amazing efforts that are being made to vaccinate the entire adult population - I think it's a waiting game.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said: “We understand the difficult situation faced by local businesses as a result of Glasgow remaining in Level 3, and are doing all we can to mitigate against the impact of the continuing restrictions.

“We continue to closely monitor the situation in all local authorities and will adapt our response accordingly, if need be, to ensure that any rapid rise is addressed rapidly and decisively, giving as much notice of the changes as practical and possible.”

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