South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has welcomed the news that travel restrictions for parts of Dumfries and Galloway are likely to be lifted tomorrow (7 July), following a cross border cluster of Covid-19 cases in Annan and Gretna but has urged the Scottish Government to handle further outbreaks differently to avoid a “name and shame” culture.
On Thursday, the Scottish Government announced that some residents of Dumfries and Galloway must retain the five-mile restriction for travelling for leisure over the weekend.
Last week the number of confirmed new cases of Covid-19 in Dumfries and Galloway since Monday rose for the first time in weeks. These were linked to contact with cases of people who worked in three workplaces, Youngs Seafood Ltd, Alpha Solway Ltd both in Annan and the Cumberland Hospital in Carlisle.
The areas covered by the retention of the restriction were those covered by postcodes DG1, DG2, DG11, DG12, DG13, DG14, DG16 namely the Dumfries, Annan, Gretna, Langholm and Lockerbie areas.
The First Minister announced during her daily press conference today (Monday) that, subject to ongoing review today, the restrictions look likely to be lifted.
She also confirmed that the number of cases in the region was 12 and 23 people linked with the cluster had been traced and asked to self-isolate.
Colin Smyth said: “The likely lifting of local travel restrictions is welcome. Local people took this seriously and stayed at home over the weekend. NHS Dumfries and Galloway and NHS Cumbria have also done an excellent job in controlling this cluster, which is a great example of the continued partnership working they have always shown.
“The use of test and trace probably means the travel restriction was more a precaution than a necessity. The effective use in this case of test and trace will lead many to ask how different the past few months could have been if such a system had been put in place at the very start of this crisis.
“This cluster outbreak has also highlighted some important lessons for how the Scottish Government handles any further localised outbreaks across Scotland, in particular their high profile communications.
“I have heard concerning reports about those who have contracted the virus in Annan and Gretna being abused online and ‘named and shamed’. My fear is that it could prove to be a deterrent for those with symptoms coming forward in the future for testing and revealing who they have been in contact with. If that happens it would be a disaster and totally undermine the test and trace system.
“This localised cluster of cases shows very clearly that this virus has not gone away. Not only should we continue to follow the travel restrictions but socially distance by keeping two metres away from others where possible, maintain high levels of hand hygiene and wear face coverings on public transport and in shops. If anyone starts showing symptoms of Covid-19, they should self-isolate immediately and book a test.”