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Coronavirus in Scotland: Sturgeon ‘would consider’ closing pubs again


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Pubs reopened to customers last month

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said she “won’t hesitate” to reintroduce lockdown restrictions if Covid-19 starts to get “out of control”.

She said efforts to deal with the virus created a “delicate balance” which could easily be thrown off kilter.

If that happened, Ms Sturgeon said the government would have to “consider” restrictions “up to and including” shutting pubs and restaurants.

But the first minister said that was “the last thing I want to do”.

Ms Sturgeon said the “big danger” was if the clusters which have been seen in areas like Aberdeen and Inverclyde spread further and led to community transmission.

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  • ‘Reverse gear’ warning after pub cluster

At her briefing on Monday, Ms Sturgeon explained: “I don’t want to have to impose any further restrictions on how people live their lives.

“But equally, I won’t hesitate because we have seen over the past four months the damage this illness does to people and we can’t allow that to happen.”

Ms Sturgeon said the return of schools next week and the wellbeing of young people was the government’s priority.

“We will not allow that to be compromised if taking action elsewhere can protect that objective,” she added.

Image caption

One picture taken at the weekend showed people outside the Soul bar in Aberdeen

The first minister said images on social media over the weekend of young people gathering in pubs with little or no social distancing made her “want to cry”.

She urged people to “do the right thing” and abide by distancing rules.

Ms Sturgeon said 13 confirmed coronavirus cases had been linked to a pub in Aberdeen.

The owners of the Hawthorn Bar said the cases could be traced back to customers who visited on 26 July.

On Monday, local SNP MP Stephen Flynn tweeted two photos showing dozens of people queuing outside pubs in Aberdeen city centre at the weekend.

‘Made me want to cry’

Ms Sturgeon said the Aberdeen cluster was “exactly what we feared when we reopened hospitality”.

She added: “Of course it’s not just this incident in Aberdeen. Across the county and across social media we are seeing evidence of people – and it is largely younger people – gathering together with little or no physical distancing in place.

“I’ve seen pictures on social media over this weekend that, not to put too fine a point on it, made me want to cry looking at them.”

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One of the images tweeted by Mr Flynn was of a crowd outside the Soul bar in Aberdeen. Its director, Paul Clarkson, said he understood Ms Sturgeon’s concerns.

He said it was “frustrating” when members of the public did not follow social distancing measures and rules that had been put in place. He said these measures would now be increased.

“We’re probably going to look to implement the wearing of face masks in our queues from today because of this incident,” he said.

“We’ll also look to increase door stewards, do enhanced staff training and add more pavement markings to make sure people are sticking to the rules.”

Ms Sturgeon acknowledged that the last few months had been a “hard slog” for many people, but stressed: “Every time one person throws caution to the wind and flouts the rules, the reality is that they put us all at risk.”

Ms Sturgeon said everyone had a part to play in minimising outbreaks like the one in Aberdeen.

No new deaths

“If it starts to run out of control, if one of these clusters can’t be contained, we will be back in a very very dangerous position and the government will have to act,” she said.

Ms Sturgeon said “we’re not there yet” – but that she was not prepared to put lives at risk.

The Scottish government does not expect to move to the next stage of its route map for easing lockdown when the restrictions are reviewed on 20 August.

During her briefing, the first minister said there had been no new deaths from the disease for the 18th day in a row.

She said 11 of the 18 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 were in the Grampian area – although she could not yet say if these cases are linked to the outbreak.



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Gambia coronavirus: Borders are closing, and now this village is split in two



“We are very close,” said Modi Dem, 43, the village chief.

But the novel coronavirus is transforming life for people worldwide after dozens of nations have tightened or closed their borders. Travel bans are commonplace in this age of pandemic: A growing list of places — including Ghana, Kenya, Italy and Chile — have closed their doors without much notice to nearly all foreigners.

Even if they are next-door neighbors.

Gambia, the smallest country in continental Africa, is sandwiched between Senegal and the Atlantic Ocean — a legacy of colonial-era demarcation. The caterpillar-shaped nation sealed its 465 miles of border on March 23.

Police officers with AK-47s are enforcing the measure, which is meant to last three weeks in an effort to curb transmissions, officials say, but could be extended if the outbreak worsens. (Gambia had four cases as of Tuesday, and Senegal had 175.)

International traffic fuels a “high risk of contracting the disease,” the Gambian president’s office warned residents last week in a statement.

The beige stone of Ngunta has become a risky red line.

Travel bans around the world have scrambled markets, doomed business deals, wrecked study abroad plans and canceled untold vacations, but the impact here is more intimate.

Families are separated. Boys are hatching illicit plans to see girls. Rice merchants cannot reach their regular customers, and food supplies are dwindling.

Villagers on the Gambian side say they no longer have easy access to drinking water. Usually, they send horse carts a quarter-mile over the border to fill jugs.

Now people are anxiously sneaking into Senegal with pots. The path is clear when officers are not around.

“We need to do the illegal thing to get clean water,” said Dem, the village head.

People are worried they could be arrested or worse, they said in interviews. Some have seen videos of security forces in Senegal and other countries beating people who break the new coronavirus laws.

Authorities have apprehended two Senegalese fisherman trying to float into Gambia and escorted them into a state quarantine hold, officials said Monday.

Waiting for normalcy to return does not feel like an option, the chief said.

The main road tying Ngunta to the rest of Gambia is in rough condition. Travel, already a hassle, can be dangerous once the rainy season kicks off in June. The isolated economy does not work when it is split in half.

Buba Dem, 37, a sugar salesman, said he cannot afford to lose customers. (Dem, a popular surname in the village, belonged to the brothers who settled here in 1930.)

His wife surveys the horizon. She will shout his name, he said, if she sees anyone in uniform. That strategy worked last week when he stepped onto Senegalese soil to get change.

“I’m scared of getting caught,” he said. “The patrol team could be around at any time.”

Alagie Nije, 14, stuck to his phone this week, trying to persuade his girlfriend on the other side of town to sneak over.

His buddies did the same with their love interests. The teenagers made a pact to look out for each other.

“Tonight we might invite them,” Nije said, laughing.

Hawa Ceesay, 34, is not so bold.

The peanut farmer yearns to see her brother, her best friend, the man who brings her Chinese green tea and chocolate cake.

He was visiting their sick father in Senegal when the border closed.

They are not sure if he has been exposed to the coronavirus, she said, and he does not want to bring it to their doorstep — even if that means he must sleep on the floor for a while.

“Every day I pray he can come home,” she said.

Mamadou Edrisa Njie in Ngunta, Gambia, contributed to this report.



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New York City closing movie theaters, entertainment venues due to coronavirus


New York City will close all of its bars and restaurants on Tuesday, with service limited to delivery and take out because of the rapidly spreading coronavirus, according to a statement by Mayor Bill de Blasio on Sunday.

The executive order will be signed tomorrow and will go into effect on Tuesday at 9 a.m. Nightclubs, movie theatres, small theater houses, and concert venues must also close.

“Our lives are all changing in ways that were unimaginable just a week ago. We are taking a series of actions that we never would have taken otherwise in an effort to save the lives of loved ones and our neighbors,” the mayor announced.

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Japanese tourists wear face masks as they sit and chat in Times Square in New York, on Sunday, March 15, 2020. President Donald Trump on Sunday called on Americans to cease hoarding groceries and other supplies, while one of the nation's most senior public health officials called on the nation to act with more urgency to safeguard their health as the coronavirus outbreak continued to spread across the United States. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

Japanese tourists wear face masks as they sit and chat in Times Square in New York, on Sunday, March 15, 2020. President Donald Trump on Sunday called on Americans to cease hoarding groceries and other supplies, while one of the nation’s most senior public health officials called on the nation to act with more urgency to safeguard their health as the coronavirus outbreak continued to spread across the United States. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

De Blasio said “now is the time” to take this drastic step because of how quickly the virus can be spread through close interactions in those types of limited spaces. It’s unclear how long this new measure will stay in effect.

“This is not a decision I make lightly,” he added. “These places are part of the heart and soul of our city. They are part of what it means to be a New Yorker. But our city is facing an unprecedented threat, and we must respond with a wartime mentality.”

A food truck vendor pushes his cart down an empty street near Times Square in New York, on Sunday, March 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

A food truck vendor pushes his cart down an empty street near Times Square in New York, on Sunday, March 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

There were more than 329 confirmed COVID-19 cases in New York City as of Sunday night, while five people have died from the virus.

Only 25 cases were confirmed in the city a week ago. Due to a lack of testing, the infected numbers are likely to be much higher.

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“We will come through this, but until we do, we must make whatever sacrifices necessary to help our fellow New Yorkers.”

De Blasio announced earlier in the day that all schools in the city would close from Monday until late-April, while adding there was a possibility “we may not have the opportunity to re-open them.” That decision came in response to pressure from parents and teachers in the city.

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“It is quite clear that this crisis is growing intensely,” the mayor said earlier on Sunday. “We’ve never been through anything like this.”



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