Mass gatherings are to be cancelled in Scotland to delay the outbreak of coronavirus as the UK moved from containment to a delay phase.
The number of confirmed cases in Scotland almost doubled from 36 to 60 in the latest daily figures, released at 2pm on Thursday, which showed 2,892 tests have been carried out so far, with 2,832 tests confirmed negative.
Speaking after a Cobra meeting Nicola Sturgeon said the move was being taken to “slow down the spread of the virus, to reduce the numbers who will be infected at the peak, the number infected at any one time.”
The First Minister told a press conference at the Scottish Government headquarters in Edinburgh: “The initial implication is a change in advice we are now giving to the general public.
“The advice is now from tomorrow if you have symptoms indicative of coronavirus you should self-isolate for seven days.”
There are 11 confirmed cases in the NHS Lothian area and 10 in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, with seven each in Grampian and Lanarkshire.
Six cases have been confirmed in Shetland, six in Forth Valley, four each in Tayside and Ayrshire and Arran, with three cases in Fife and two in the Borders.
At First Minister’s Questions on Thursday, Ms Sturgeon said it is “inappropriate that we continue as normal” and she will recommend the cancellation of gatherings of more than 500 people to protect front-line services.
She said she would be advising the cancellations start from Monday.
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An example given by the First Minister later on Thursday was that church services would not be considered in that way.
However football and rugby matches “because of their size and need for dedicated ambulance services should be reconsidered”.
Ms Sturgeon also said: “Progressively, the next few weeks are going to have services under acute pressure. I feel an obligation to remove as many unnecessary burdens as I can.
“We are entering a period where there will be significant changes to everybody’s day to day experiences.”
Explaining the reasons behind the advice to cancel mass gatherings, she told FMQs: “This is a decision that we are basing on resilience issues and not simply on the action that we are required to take to reduce the spread of the virus.”
She said: “Mass gatherings are required to be policed, they require to have emergency ambulance cover, they require the services of our voluntary health services, and at a time when we need to be reducing the pressures on these front-line workers in order to free them up on the significant challenge that lies ahead, I do think it is inappropriate that we continue as normal.
“That is principally to protect the resilience of our front-line workers and we will continue to take decisions in collaboration with the other nations of the UK around issues like schools in the future – but driven very much by the scientific advice.”
She added: “Our emergency services, like all parts of our workforce, are likely to suffer from higher than normal sickness absence rates in the weeks and months ahead and our NHS in particular will be under significant pressure.
“So it’s important that we protect that resilience as much as possible and reduce any unnecessary burden on these front-line workers at this stage.”
Update on #coronavirus testing— Scottish Government (@scotgov) March 12, 2020
As of 2pm today, 2892 Scottish tests have concluded:
2832 confirmed negative
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The Scottish Government is not recommending that schools or universities close but Ms Sturgeon said it would be “kept under constant review”.
She pledged any additional money coming to Scotland’s NHS from Wednesday’s UK Budget will go towards supporting the health service’s efforts to tackle the infection.
Finance Secretary Kate Forbes earlier confirmed any funding that comes to Scotland to tackle coronavirus will be ring-fenced.
On Wednesday, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a package of measures to tackle the virus, including £5 billion for local authorities, the NHS and other public services, along with £40 million for research to find a vaccine and statutory sick pay from the first day of self-isolation.
Meanwhile, Loganair has announced a reduction in the number of flights it will operate due to the impact of the virus.
A VisitScotland expo due to take place at P&J Live in Aberdeen on April 1 and 2 has been scrapped, while the Scottish Greens have cancelled their spring conference in Kirkcaldy on March 28.