Sturgeon rattled as she is forced to justify plunging more regions into harsh Covid rules

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The First Minister was criticised by Aberdeen City Council after she confirmed on Tuesday that the city will remain under Tier 2 coronavirus restrictions despite showing an improvement. Confronted on the issue at the daily Covid press conference on Wednesday, Nicola Sturgeon said: “Aberdeen, and I did make this point yesterday, is one of the authorities that all being well we would hope to move down a level.

“But we don’t yet have evidence of a sustained improvement and downwards projection in Aberdeen as is the case in many other parts of the country.

“Let me try to explain why it’s really important that we do have that kind of evidence before we take any part of the country down a level.

“Taking a part of the country down a level is not some kind of neutral act: we’ve seen an improvement, therefore, we can go down a level and nothing changes.

“Going down a level means an easing of restrictions, an easing of restrictions means that the virus has more opportunity to transmit and we will probably see transmission increasing.

“Therefore we’ve got to be certain before we increase the risk in that way that the particular area we’re talking about, whether it is Aberdeen or anywhere else, is in a stable enough position to cope with that.”

The First Minister was also forced to urge teachers in Aberdeen to keep their coronavirus contact tracing app on their mobile phones active after it was reported education bosses at Aberdeen City Council told staff to disable the app while they were working inside schools.

A letter to teachers in the area reportedly said school staff could be notified as having been in contact with someone with COVID-19 “even when a public health investigation of the full circumstances may have identified no close contact”.

It added: “Public health colleagues have suggested that school staff should disable to remove the app while working in school buildings as the app is not able to identify when robust mitigations have been in place.”

Ms Sturgeon said she did “not have all the details” of what happened in Aberdeen but said there may have been an incident when several people were notified after their phones were left together inside a school.

She said: “We shouldn’t be asking people to switch off the app in my view when they have their phone with them, that is defeating the purpose of Protect Scotland.”

The First Minister added: “I don’t know what the basis for Aberdeen City Council’s advice is.

“I cannot be clearer. If you are a teacher in a school there is no reason I can think of you would be routinely advised to turn that app off and there is every reason I can think of why that would be the wrong advice to give.”

Ms Sturgeon, who was asked about the issue at the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing on Wednesday, said: “I would encourage people wherever possible, if you have got the app on your phone, keep your phone with you and keep it turned on.

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“If you have got an app on the phone that is to assist with contact tracing people who might have been exposed to the virus, your default advice is to tell people to keep it on and to keep the phone with them as far as possible.

“Let me be very clear, the Protect Scotland app only works and is only effective if you download it to your phone, you keep it switched on and you have your phone with you.”

She added: “If it is on and running when your phone is away from you it may still get alerts but obviously that will not mean you have been close to someone with the virus.

“So keep your phone with you, keep the app on and keep Protect Scotland on your phone.”

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