Sturgeon: Mass gatherings over 500 people could be cancelled

Large gatherings are to be cancelled in a bid to delay the outbreak ofcoronavirus, Nicola Sturgeon has announced.

At First Minister's Questions, she said it is "inappropriate that we continueas normal" and she will recommend the cancellation of gatherings of more than 500 people to protect front-line services.

Ms Sturgeon said she would be advising the cancellations start from Monday.

Explaining the reasons behind the advice to cancel mass gatherings, Ms Sturgeon said: "This is a decision that we are basing on resilience issues and not simply on the action that we are required to take to reduce the spread of the virus."

Speaking ahead of a Cobra meeting with other UK leaders, Ms Sturgeon said:"Mass gatherings are required to be policed, they require to have emergency ambulance cover, they require the services of our voluntary health services, and at a time when we need to be reducing the pressures on these front-line workers in order to free them up on the significant challenge that lies ahead, I do think it is inappropriate that we continue as normal.

"That is principally to protect the resilience of our front-line workers andwe will continue to take decisions in collaboration with the other nations ofthe UK around issues like schools in the future - but driven very much by thescientific advice."

Credit: PA

She added: "Our emergency services, like all parts of our workforce, are likely to suffer from higher than normal sickness absence rates in the weeks and months ahead and our NHS in particular will be under significant pressure.

"So it's important that we protect that resilience as much as possible andreduce any unnecessary burden on these front-line workers at this stage."

The Scottish Government is not recommending that schools or universities close but Ms Sturgeon said it would be "kept under constant review".

Ahead of the latest announcement at 2pm of how many people in Scotland have been diagnosed with coronavirus, Ms Sturgeon said she expects a "sharp rise in cases".

Responding to Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw, Ms Sturgeon added: "We may also see further evidence of community transmission of coronavirus.

"That underlines the seriousness of the situation we are all facing."

The Scottish Government's national clinical director Jason Leitch hadpreviously said community transmission of Covid-19 - when the source of the transfer could not be traced - would be a "trigger" for the move from thecontain phase to the delay phase.

Ms Sturgeon pledged any additional money coming to Scotland's NHS fromWednesday's UK Budget will go towards supporting the health service's efforts to tackle the infection.