Scots medical chief warns Covid public gathering ban could last MONTHS

Struggling Scottish bars and restaurants’ fury after top scientist warns large parties could still be banned in APRIL

  • Jason Leitch raised the spectre of restrictions lasting well into spring
  • National clinical director dismissed calls to reschedule Hogmanay to April
  • Suggested mid-spring might be too early for mass street events 

Scotland’s top disease expert was facing a backlash today after suggesting that the country’s current Covid ban on large public gatherings could be in place until April.

National Clinical Director Jason Leitch raised the spectre of restrictions lasting well into spring when asked about how hospitality firms could recoup £20million lost when Hogmanay was cancelled.

Speaking to The World This Weekend on BBC Radio 4, the national clinical director dismissed calls to reschedule Edinburgh’s Hogmanay street party to April as being too soon for mass events.

His comments come as hospitality firms continue to struggle under restrictions which mean pubs and restaurants must have table service only, and one metre social distancing between groups. Night clubs were closed on December 27 for at least three weeks.

And he faced pushback from the industry and opposition MSPs. Former Scots Tory leader Jackson Carlaw said: ‘This cannot be allowed to happen. Businesses and fans were promised a three-week breaker. ScotGov cannot extend in perpetuity when the evidence suggests the opposite.’

And Kate Nicholls, the CEO of UK Hospitality, added: ‘If it is too early to think about gatherings in April in Scotland, it is time serious support was provided to tourism and hospitality businesses.’

National Clinical Director Jason Leitch raised the spectre of restrictions lasting well into spring when asked about how hospitality firms could recoup £20million lost when Hogmanay was cancelled.

Around 30,000 people were due to attend Hogmanay in Edinburgh (2020 event pictured)  but it was cancelled on December 21 as Omicron spread.

Former Scots Tory leader Jackson Carlaw said: ‘This cannot be allowed to happen. Businesses and fans were promised a three-week breaker’

On the BBC yesterday, Nick Stewart, managing director of Sneaky Pete’s in Edinburgh, suggested Edinburgh’s party could be held later this year.

Around 30,000 people were due to attend but it was cancelled on December 21 as Omicron spread.

Mr Stewart said: ‘I would love to see Scotland choosing to reschedule the whole of Hogmanay.

‘Edinburgh [should have] a huge party around April when we know that everyone can come, pretty much all restrictions will no longer be in place, and the whole city decides this is what we are doing.’

However, Professor Leitch said a mass public event in April ‘might be slightly too early’.

He said: ‘I like an Edinburgh night out like any other person. Whether we can bring that forward to April, the jury is still out.

‘We are hopeful. We have now got data from South Africa, from University College London, from Denmark and, crucially, Edinburgh that suggests serious disease is certainly less with this variant, maybe as much as three-quarters less.

‘But let’s put that in perspective – 2,500 Delta cases [per day] gets you 50 people in hospital.

‘You need 10,000 Omicron cases for the same number of admissions and Scotland is at 15,000. Omicron is encouraging compared to Delta, but Delta was a very low bar.’

Gavin Stevenson, vice-chairman of the Night Time Industries Association in Scotland, claimed there had been an 80 per cent drop in footfall on Hogmanay, which may have cost the sector £20million.

Source: Read Full Article