Cop26 will see Covid cases spike and may lead to new restrictions, expert warns

·3 min read

Coronavirus restrictions may have to be imposed in the aftermath of the Cop26 climate conference in Glasgow, a scientific adviser to Nicola Sturgeon has warned.

Professor Devi Sridhar said she believes the 13-day UN summit will lead to an increase in Covid-19 cases and put further pressure on the health service, triggering the “need for further restrictions”.

Prof Sridhar, who sits on the Scottish Government’s Covid-19 advisory group, tweeted the warning in response to a question about whether Cop26 will make the Covid situation in Scotland worse and lead to new curbs on freedoms.

The professor of global public health at Edinburgh University wrote: “I could be wrong (and hope I am) but yes.

“A mass event (with major movement of people in & out) with an infectious virus will cause an increase in cases. While in the case of COVID will put stress on limited health services. Which triggers need for further restrictions.”

The summit is being held at the Scottish Event Campus, with up to 30,000 people travelling to the city between October 31 and November 12.

Prof Sridhar’s comments echo those of another Scottish Government adviser, Professor Linda Bauld, who said last week that holding the large-scale event is “risky”.

Prof Bauld told Times Radio: “Yes, I am worried about a Glaswegian spike, and I’m not worried just about Glasgow. The central belt is interconnected.

“And we’re seeing declines here but we may not be able to hang on to those gains.

“We’re trying to open up and everything’s trying to operate more normally.

“Everybody’s delighted to be able to go to the cinema or a concert or have more people in their homes.

“This is hard-won progress thanks to vaccines and other things.

“But having huge mass events at the moment, I think it is risky.”

In response to Prof Sridhar’s tweet, Scottish Labour health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said: “Whilst not entirely surprising, it is nevertheless troubling to hear Professor Sridhar warn of a potential spike in cases as a result of Cop26 taking place in Glasgow.

“Covid cases are already far too high and lives are being lost.

“If we are to prevent cases spiking, and the inevitable additional pressure that would put on our NHS, we need the SNP Government to speed up the sluggish rollout of the booster jab and ensure the NHS has surge capacity.

“It is not good enough to wait for cases to spike before taking action. The Health Secretary must act, and act now.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “We saw from the G7 in Cornwall that these major gatherings can bring with them a spike in Covid cases.

“The Scottish Government should set out what proactive measures it is putting in place to enable NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and others to deal with any rise in cases associated with Cop26.

“With experts like Professor Sridhar already warning of the risk, there is no excuse for the Health Secretary to be taken by surprise. He should move to support our NHS now.”

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