Covid in Scotland: Nicola Sturgeon warns Scots against travel to Blackpool

People from Scotland have been warned against travelling to Blackpool after it was linked to a “large and growing” number of Scottish coronavirus cases.

About 180 Scots have tested positive for the virus in the past month after travelling to the seaside town.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she would write to the prime minister seeking urgent talks over UK-wide travel restrictions.

And she warned against travelling for non-essential reasons.

Blackpool Council said “stringent Covid secure measures” were in place, while local hoteliers said Ms Sturgeon singling out the town was “a real kick in the teeth”.

Coronavirus cases have been surging in Scotland in recent weeks, with a further 1,429 positive tests being recorded on Wednesday.

Ms Sturgeon said the country was at a “really critical moment”, and said the government “will not shy away from doing what we think is necessary to keep the people of Scotland as safe as possible”.

She said trips to Blackpool – and in particular coach parties – had been linked to “a large and growing number of cases” of the virus in Scotland, with a specific incident management team set up to deal with them.

Over the past month, around 180 people have told contact tracing teams that they had recently been in the Lancashire holiday resort, with 94 of them in the past week.

Ms Sturgeon said the town was being “mentioned in Test and Protect conversations far more than any other location outside of Scotland”, with a particular concern about coach trips.

She said she knew many people would have trips planned for the half-term holidays in October, but said: “If you don’t have to travel right now, do not travel.”

Ms Sturgeon made an appeal to football fans in particular, saying supporters of Rangers and Celtic should not travel south to watch Saturday’s derby match between the Glasgow rivals.

Police in England had already warned Old Firm fans about making a cross-border visit for the match while pubs and bars in Glasgow are closed.

The first minister said people should “watch the football at home”, adding: “Do not travel to Blackpool this weekend to watch the Old Firm match in a pub. If you do that you will be putting yourselves and other people at risk please do not do that this weekend.”

Blackpool attracts 18 million visitors each year, around a million of them said to be from Scotland.

A spokesperson for Blackpool Council said there had not been outbreaks in the local tourism industry, or in the rest of the UK which had been linked back to the town.

And Claire Smith of the StayBlackpool group of hoteliers said Scottish visitors were “absolutely critical to the town’s success”.

She said: “It’s demoralising when so many people have worked so hard to make their product safe. It’s a real kick in the teeth when a town is mentioned so specifically.”

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