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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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.
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.”
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.