In Depth

Covid ‘circuit breaker’: how Scotland is tackling rise in cases

Nicola Sturgeon mulling two-week lockdown as business leaders warn of economic damage

The Scottish government is reportedly considering a two-week “circuit breaker” lockdown for the entire country in an attempt to curb a sudden uptick in Covid-19 infections.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is expected to hold meetings with key advisers, cabinet ministers and senior figures in the UK government over the next 24 hours to discuss the response to the outbreaks.

But the possibility of a fresh lockdown has already triggered concern among business leaders. Tim Allan, president of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, has warned that Sturgeon “simply cannot continue to keep switching the lights of the economy on and off”.

How many new cases has Scotland reported?

The Scottish authorities reported 697 new cases of coronavirus on Monday - which equates to 12.8% of all the people newly tested. The country has also seen a “sharp increase” in the number of Covid patients requiring hospital treatment in recent weeks, with 218 currently in hospital and 22 in intensive care, the BBC reports.

The number of coronavirus infections among people aged between 75 and 84 is now the highest since the middle of May, officials figures show. And Sturgeon admitted last week that Scotland’s R number could be as high as 1.7 - exceeding that in England, which stands at between 1.2 and 1.6.

Where are the hotspots?

The outbreaks in Scotland are largely concentrated in major cities, government figures show.

Glasgow City has been worst hit, with 1,224 positive cases (193.3 per 100,000 people) over the past week, followed by the City of Edinburgh, with 750 cases (142.9 per 100,000 people). The two cities alone make up 43% of Scotland’s new cases between 27 September and 3 October.

“At the bottom of the scale” are the islands of Shetland and Orkney, both of which reported zero cases, says The Scotsman.

Emergency measures

Sturgeon and other Scottish ministers and advisers reportedly began floating the prospect of a circuit breaker two weeks ago, but MSPs have “not been invited to debate nor scrutinise plans”, The Times reports.

Business leaders have warned that any new lockdown would cost jobs and  take the economy “back to square one”.

However, following her decision last week to implement a ban on visiting other people’s homes and a 10pm curfew for pubs and restaurants, Sturgeon told reporters that a lockdown could mean a “number of things”.

The public and Holyrood would be given “as much notice as possible” over any new restrictions, she added. 

Meanwhile, the country’s national clinical director, Professor Jason Leitch, said that further restrictions were being “seriously considered”, but that they would not be as extreme as those implemented in March.

“The idea is that a two-week, roughly, circuit-breaker, would buy you 28 days,” he told BBC Scotland’s Seven Days programme. “You don’t know that for sure, because it’s not an exact science, but it would buy you about a month in the pandemic.”

Leitch stressed that no decision had been taken. However, a Scottish government source told the Daily Mail that the NHS has been briefed that a new lockdown could come into effect at 7pm on Friday.

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