The Scottish Government must rethink how it calculates local lockdowns in future to prevent businesses in rural areas with low Covid levels being forced to close unnecessarily, according to South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth.

As of Friday, pubs and restaurants in five health board areas, including NHS Ayrshire and Arran, have been forced to close until 25 October, however, Colin Smyth believes the current rules, which have been calculated using health board areas, are inconsistent and unfair.

He said rural areas out with the central belt with low numbers of coronavirus cases, which have already been hit hard by previous restrictions, should not be included in the same lockdown measures as larger towns and cities where the virus is increasing substantially.

Between 3 -9 October the number of positive cases over seven days in South Ayrshire was  77, with the seven day rate per 100,000 population standing at 68.4. In East Ayrshire the number of positive cases over seven days was more than double at 200, with the seven day rate per 100,000 population standing at 163.9. In North Ayrshire the number of positive cases over seven days was 155, with the seven day rate per 100,000 population standing at 115. However, in areas such as Arran there have been no cases for four months, but all parts of the health board area face the same restrictions.

Colin Smyth said: “I know that the level of cases is on the rise across Scotland and people expect some increase in restrictions. But it seems very unfair and inconsistent that under the current rules, a pub or restaurant in a village in Ayrshire is being treated in the same way as a large urban town or city, irrespective of the number of cases in the area.

“The overall level of cases in South Ayrshire is well below the level in cities in the central belt that have the same lockdown rules, and even in East Ayrshire, many rural areas have a lower number of cases at present than the large towns in the council area. In North Ayrshire, Arran hasn’t had a case for months but faces the same restrictions as the centre of Glasgow.

“It is also shocking that councils were not consulted by the Scottish Government about this latest lockdown, and yet they are the ones being forced to clear up the mess and enforce the rules, for example around what is a café or and what is a restaurant.

“In future, local lockdowns should be done at the very least by council area or even on a town by town basis. It makes no sense to use huge health board areas which cover a diverse population. People don’t identify themselves based on what health board they live in. It is by town or at the very least council area.

“Our rural communities have already suffered considerably during this pandemic due to the high number of people employed in the hospitality and tourism sectors. This latest round of lockdown measures is going to have serious implications for many businesses who are already struggling.”

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