Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said she is “very hopeful” a local lockdown in Dumfries and Galloway could be eased from Tuesday if the cross-border coronavirus outbreak is under control.
Restrictions lifted elsewhere in the country where retained in parts of the region last Friday after a “cluster” of Covid-19 cases was discovered, with 12 people now confirmed to have been infected.
The First Minister said the Scottish Government believes the cluster is linked to an outbreak at the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle and is “seeking some final assurances and information” the outbreak is under control.
Ms Sturgeon said ministers are now “as confident as we can be that this cluster is under control” in Dumfries and Galloway and – if it is satisfied with a review of the infection in Carlisle and Cumbria – will lift travel restrictions for the region.
Speaking at the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing on Monday, Ms Sturgeon said she is “very hopeful” the lockdown can be eased, which will allow residents to travel more than five miles for recreation.
“I would hope that we will have all of the bits of assurance that we need in place over the course of today so that we can lift the restrictions as of tomorrow,” she said.
“But it’s important that we continue to act in a precautionary basis right now, particularly given we’re in the early stages of dealing with these localised outbreaks.”
Thanking residents for their “co-operation and patience”, Ms Sturgeon added: “All those who have been involved in the outbreak directly, as a case or a contact, your willingness to comply with the test and protect system has been absolutely invaluable.
“I also want to thank all of the public health staff in Dumfries and Galloway who have been involved in the management of this incident.
“This will not be the last localised outbreak that we see – there will be further occasions in other parts of Scotland where we may have to ask people to restrict their activities as an outbreak is contained.
“But that’s the reality of trying to control a virus for which we have not yet got any treatment and no vaccine.”
Dumfries and Galloway Council leader Elaine Murray echoed the praise and highlighted the work of the local NHS, police and council staff.
Ms Murray said: “This response shows how our communities in Dumfries and Galloway pull together at difficult times like this and I want to personally thank them for everything that they have done.”
Ms Sturgeon revealed 23 people who are believed to have been in contact with the infected patients have been informed, offered testing and are believed to be self-isolating.
Last week, it was confirmed testing would take place at the Young’s food factory and an Alpha Solway factory that makes personal protective equipment (PPE) for the Scottish Government.
An Alpha Solway spokeswoman said: “There has been one confirmed positive and one negative test for Covid-19 at our new Dumfries manufacturing plant, which opened last week.
“Our employee appears to have contracted the virus at a social event at a private residence.
“While we encourage all our team to practise appropriate hygiene and distancing measures outside the workplace, we cannot control this.
“We have taken instantaneous steps to address this situation with testing for all employees who could have been in contact or proximity taking place today with the appropriate steps taken and support given should there be any more positive results.”