Nicola Sturgeon: Mass gatherings over 500 people should be cancelled

Nicola Sturgeon was speaking at First Minister’s Questions.

Nicola Sturgeon has warned that the Scottish Government is ready to call for the "cancellation of mass gatherings" of more than 500 people from next week to tackle Coronavirus.

The First Minister told MSPs that the country is now poised to move into the "delay phase" from the current "containment phase " as a steep rise in the number of cases in Scotland is confirmed later today.

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Scots will now have "change the way they lead their normal lives", Ms Sturgeon said in a sombre update at Holyrood today.

Nicola Sturgeon said the government will advise gatherings of 500 or more people should be cancelled. Picture: PA

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Currently, there are 36 confirmed cases in Scotland.

The advice to end all mass gatherings from the start of next week could plunge the football season into doubt, as well as concerts and other major events.

"We will see a sharp rise in cases reported today," Ms Sturgeon told MSPs.

An increase in "community transmission is also expected, she added.

"This is a serious situation, there is no doubt that we will be asking people to change the way they live their normal lives for a period," she said.

Ms Sturgeon said mass gatherings have to be policed and need emergency ambulance cover as well as the cover of voluntary health services.

"At a time when we need to be reducing the pressures on these frontline workers in order to free them up to focus on the significant challenge that lies ahead, I do not think it is inappropriate that we continue as normal.

"So the Health Secretary and I have decide this morning that we are certainly minded, and this is a decision we will seek views on from others at COBRA, but we are minded now that we will advise the cancellation also from the start of next week of mass gatherings of 500 people or more."

Ms Sturgeon said the move from the "contain to the delay phase" will be discussed in a Cobra meeting she will take part in today chaired by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

"My view is the time is now right to do that and I would expect that the four UK nations will reach an agreement on that this afternoon."Scientific advice is not yet calling for an end to mass gatherings, but Ms Sturgeon said it is now needed to protect frontline emergency workers who are likely to attend such events.

This means that schools and universities are still not being earmarked for closure, although this will be kept under review.

"The advice at the moment is that it would not be the right thing to do to close schools and universities at this stage," the First Minister said.

Any additional cash for Scotland resulting from yesterday's budget will go to businesses and the NHS as required.

"We will do everything we can to mitigate the impact of the situation we are facing," the SNP leader added.

"I can give an assurance on the non-domestic rates issue that all the consequentials that come from non-domestic rates decisions announced by the Chancellor yesterday will go to supporting businesses here in Scotland."