Thursday, 22 Oct 2020

Blackpool fires back after Nicola Sturgeon points finger over spike in COVID cases

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During her Covid-19 briefing today, Nicola Sturgeon singled out Blackpool as “associated with a large and growing number of Covid cases in Scotland”. Scotland’s First Minister also warned Celtic and Rangers fans to not travel to the Lancashire town to watch the Old Firm match in pubs on Saturday.

She added those who have not already booked a trip to the area should not now do so.

But council leaders and business bosses have hit out claiming the Lancashire seaside town had lower Covid-19 rates than in many areas north of the border.

In a strongly-worded statement released this afternoon, Dr Arif Rajpura, Director of Public Health at Blackpool Council, said there did not appear to be similar problems with visitors from elsewhere in the UK.

He added: “Blackpool has long had an association with visitors from Scotland, in excess of one million visitors from Scotland enjoy Blackpool and all its attractions every year.

“Evidence across the country suggests that the virus is spreading most quickly within social groups, which is why it is essential that people act in a Covid secure way when they are here.

“We get 18 million visitors a year to Blackpool and have not seen any outbreaks in the rest of the UK from visitors to Blackpool, nor are we experiencing outbreaks within our tourism businesses.

“Blackpool has stringent Covid secure measures in place.

“The council visits its hotels, venues and attractions on a regular basis to ensure all are Covid compliant.”

The Public Health chief said the rate of Covid-19 in Blackpool currently stands at 218 per 100,000.

He stressed it was one the lowest in the northwest of England and is also lower than parts of Scotland.

As a result, Blackpool was placed in the Tier Two “high” category when new restrictions came into force in England on Wednesday.

Claire Smith, President of StayBlackpool which represents hoteliers in the town, added: “It’s demoralising when so many people have worked so hard to make their product safe.

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“It’s a real kick in the teeth when a town is mentioned so specifically.” 

Ms Sturgeon said at least 180 people in Scotland who tested positive for Covid-19 in the last month reported a recent trip to Blackpool.

An incident management team had been set up to deal with those who have travelled between the town and Scotland.

Ms Sturgeon added: “Blackpool is a place that many Scots love and like to visit, particularly at this time of year.

“Many of us have happy childhood memories of going to see the Blackpool illuminations.”

But she stressed: “I need to advise you that trips to Blackpool are now associated with a large and growing number of Covid cases in Scotland. 

“Blackpool is being mentioned in Test and Protect conversations far more than any other location outside of Scotland.”

Scottish Government data shows that Glasgow City had the highest infection rate in the country at 248 cases per 100,000 people.

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