Parts of Scotland could have fewer coronavirus restrictions than England, says chief medical officer

Dr Catherine Calderwood says it may "not be appropriate to have all of the suppression measures in all of the country" later on.

Dr Catherine Calderwood, Scotland's chief medical officer
Dr Catherine Calderwood, Scotland's chief medical officer Credit: PA

Parts of Scotland where the coronavirus is less widespread could enjoy fewer restrictions than the rest of the country and England, the country's chief medical officer has said. 

Although supporting a UK-wide approach now, Dr Catherine Calderwood said it may "not be appropriate to have all of the suppression measures in all of the country" later on.

Speaking at a press briefing alongside Nicola Sturgeon, she noted that Scotland is currently "behind" the situation in London and argued a "bespoke" response could be introduced.

Ms Sturgeon announced she has set up her own scientific advisory group to supplement the official advice given to the UK-wide Cobra meetings.

Dr Calderwood said this could be used "to apply our own Scottish data to some of these advisory measures", allowing for less stringent measures in some parts of the country.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Chief Medical Officer Dr Catherine Calderwood deliver an update on coronavirus Credit: Reuters

Her intervention came as it emerged that six more people in Scotland who tested postive for the virus had died, bringing the total to 22.

The number of confirmed cases surged to 719, an increase of 135 compared to the previous day, although this is likely to be a huge underestimate of the numbers actually infected.

Ms Sturgeon said it was "clear that we are now seeing a rapid rise in coronavirus cases in Scotland" and announced further guidance to employers on whether they should close. However, she said a "precautionary" approach should be adopted that prioritised workers' health.

Although the UK Government has said construction work could continue where it was safe to do so, Ms Sturgeon insisted building sites should not be open unless they were working on essential facilities like hospitals.

She said her new advisory body would be chaired by Professor Andrew Morris, chair of medicine and vice-principal of data science at Edinburgh University, and supported by Professor David Crossman, Scotland's Chief Scientist.

Arguing that "bespoke advice" is necessary, Dr Calderwood said: "We've had a lot of cases in London and we in Scotland have fewer cases. We are behind the situation there.

"So the advice about suppressive measures has been all over the UK because that's what we need to stop the transmission of the virus.

"But in time we will want to apply our own Scottish data to some of these advisory measures.

"Perhaps it will not be appropriate to have all of the suppression measures in all of the country as we progress through the transmission of this disease and also as we see how the capacity of our NHS is holding up."

Ms Sturgeon said: "As the number of cases increase, it is ever more important that we have the fullest possible understanding of exactly how the virus is spreading in Scotland.

"We need to be certain that the decisions we are taking are the most effective ones possible and we need to know whether there are more steps that are required to be taken."

The First Minister also disclosed the Scottish Government has contingency plans for a temporary hospital similar to the 4,000-bed "Nightingale" unit being opened at the ExCel Centre in London next week.

Vaughan Hart, managing director of the Scottish Building Federation, said: “Whilst we appreciate the clear guidance issued by the First Minister in recent days, the UK Government appears to be communicating a different message in relation to construction. 

"In some instances this has led to a two-tiered system operating in Scotland, whereby some companies are following the UK advice and others are adhering to the advice of the Scottish Government.”