Politics

Scottish border panic: Coronavirus infections surge as incident team launched

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Jason Leitch, Scotland’s National Clinical Director said there was a new outbreak in the south-west of Scotland and north-west of England. Figures show five positive coronavirus cases were recorded in Dumfries and Galloway in Tuesday’s virus statistics whilst the others in the North West close to the border.


 

The cases were found around the Scottish Border towns of Gretna and Annan.

Mr Leitch said: “This is a complex but small cluster captured in different testing areas: in a hospital testing site, in a mobile testing unit and in a drive-through testing unit.”

A cross-border incident management team met yesterday afternoon to review action to be taken on both sides of the border after it was “decided these cases are connected”.

Mr Leitch stressed the new cross-border outbreak adds a “complexity because some of the testing will have been done in England and some of the testing will have been done in Scotland”.

He added: “They are going to put in place a cross-border incident management team which is exactly what Health Protection Scotland are meant to do with Public Health England, and make sure that we are managing everything we can around the family, the workplaces and everything else.”

The new figures are adding to Scottish government pressures to quarantine people who are visiting from other parts of the UK including England.

National Records of Scotland figures also show traffic in Gretna Green more than doubled since the peak of the virus.

This increased from around 6,000 vehicles a day in late March to around 14,000 in the last few weekdays.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “Although everything associated with this virus is concerning and causes people anxiety – and I include myself in that – I do think people should also take some assurance from what Jason has just been outlining, because that shows that these systems are in place, and these systems are kicking in when they need to.”

Ms Sturgeon said her decisions on the pandemic are based on public health, not on politics or the constitution but stressed she would “not rule it out”.

But locals were worried at the figures with John Pagani, who runs the Café Royal in Annan, saying it was a worrying development.

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He told BBC Borders: “It is a very worrying development. I have noticed an increase in the number of customers from England over the last week or so and customers say Carlisle is pretty much business as usual now.

“We obviously don’t know where the outbreak started, and the last thing I want to say to any customer is you’re not welcome, but it shows you how complicated this is.”

Cllr Henry McClelland, who represents Annan on Dumfries and Galloway Council, said: “We are absolutely horrified, we have been doing so well here in Dumfries and Galloway keeping the numbers really low.

“I think it is a very timely reminder. We are so close to Carlisle and I am seeing so many notices on social media about people going to Carlisle this weekend for a drink, the pubs are reopening.

 

“This is surely a timely reminder that we have got to take this seriously – it hasn’t gone away.”

Data from the National Records of Scotland (NRS) also revealed from June 22-28, there were 20 fewer deaths (1,006) than the average over the last five years (1,026).

It is the first time since the week of March 23-29, the initial week of lockdown, that the total number of weekly deaths has fallen below the average.

But Professor Jason Leitch stressed: “It is not at the stage where we are worried about community transmission, we don’t think the virus is suddenly exposed and out in the wild, but we want to reach the end of the chains of transmission.

“It is important to keep it in perspective. It is not a national outbreak, it is not 300 national outbreaks. It is geographically limited and it is numerically limited.”

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