Politics

John Swinney admits Celtic-Hibs cup final could be ‘super spreader’ event as rules introduced too late

SCOTLAND’s Deputy First Minister has admitted that Sunday’s Premier Sports Cup Final at Hampden could be a Covid super spreader event as he apologised a decision to limit large crowds was not taken earlier.

Celtic defeated Hibs in front of almost 50,000 fans on Sunday despite soaring numbers of coronavirus infections in Scotland driven by the Omicron variant.

Today, the First Minister announced that attendances are being cut back to just 500 for three weeks from Boxing Day.

But speaking on BBC Radio Scotland this afternoon, John Swinney has admitted that Sunday’s cup final going ahead with a full capacity could be a super spreader event – and said he regretted rules not being tightened earlier.

READ MORE: Covid Scotland: Nicola Sturgeon issues three-week Covid restrictions from Boxing Day

He said: “I think it stands to reason that if we have large numbers of people – 50,000 fans – travelling towards a sporting event in one particular part of the country, using multiple modes of transport and interacting with each other – there’s a very high danger that will be a super spreader of an event.”

Asked if the weekend’s cup final could be a super spreader event, the Deputy First Minister said: “It could well be.”

He added: “I regret the fact that we didn’t make this decision earlier.

“That’s nobody’s fault – I was one of the people involved in the decision.

“I have to acknowledge that events of that nature have the potential to be super spreader events and the government, if it’s acting in the interests of the public health of our community has got to take some difficult decisions that people will not like but they are designed to act in the public interest.”

Over the weekend, Scottish LibDem leader, Ale Cole-Hamilton, raised concerns about the game going ahead amid the pandemic but other fixtures being called off due to the weather.

He said: “I genuinely don’t understand how you can postpone a 50k capacity football fixture because of the weather, but not because of a mutant viral strain that’s infecting 10k Scots a day.

“A hard sell to parents and grandparents deprived a trip to their kids 100-seater nativity.”

Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “I warned a week ago that people wouldn’t be able to make head nor tail of being told not to meet four households while the green light was given to events of up to 50,000. It is absolutely somebody’s fault – that was the decision of SNP ministers.

“The Government could make a direct appeal for everyone at the game to take an LFT (lateral flow test) now.

“The advice on events has changed today but what’s clear is that businesses need financial support without delay. There is no time to waste.”

Scotland’s national clinical director Jason Leitch confirmed he had not advised the Scottish Government to intervene in the fixture but stressed he was worried about large numbers of people travelling to and from large events.

Speaking as tighter restrictions were imposed on Scots, including the cancellation of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay event, Mr Swinney also discussed the hospitality sector, which faces returning to table service and possibly a shutdown.

Mr Swinney said: “Quite clearly the physical distancing between groupings is applied in hospitality settings.

“I think it’s pretty clear that’s going to have complications for the operation of the nightclub sector.

“But we’ll engage actively with that sector about what the practical implications.”

Asked if nightclubs may have to close, Mr Swinney said: “That is a possibility.

“We will engage with the sector on the practicalities of implications of changes to rules.”

Mr Swinney added: “We’ve had to take some very difficult decisions because of the twist and challenge of omicron variant.

“Cases have risen by 50% in the space of a week.

“We’re putting in place about £375 million to support the business community.

“We will discuss with the sectors, but we have to react to protect public health.”

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