First Minister faces criticism from Blackpool business leader after coronavirus warning
Blackpool has defended its coronavirus safety restrictions after Nicola Sturgeon warns Scots to stay away from the town.
Nicola Sturgeon said that at least 180 people in Scotland who tested positive for coronavirus in the last month reported taking a trip to Blackpool.
In the last week, 94 people who had contracted the virus reported going to the seaside town.
Mrs Sturgeon said: "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."
In response, council leaders and business representatives have pointed out the Lancashire seaside town, which welcomes more than a million Scottish visitors a year, has lower coronavirus rates than many areas north of the border.
Jane Cole, vice-president of the North & Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce and managing director of Blackpool Transport, said: “The rate of Covid-19 in Blackpool
currently stands at 218 per 100,000, which is one the lowest in the north-west of England and is also lower than parts of Scotland.
“We get 17 million visitors a year to Blackpool and have not seen 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.”
She added: “The council visits its hotels, venues and attractions on a regular basis to ensure all are Covid compliant.
“Blackpool was one of the first places in the country to establish a team of 60 Covid stewards.
"Their job is to ensure people are socially distancing, wearing face masks, alleviating pinch points in queues and advising and supporting the public and businesses.”
Ms Cole said people with coronavirus symptoms are advised to stay away from Blackpool.
She continued: “As mentioned by the First Minister, evidence suggests that many of these current cases are linked to coach parties and coach travel.
“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.”
Blackpool was placed in the Tier 2 “high” category when the new restrictions system came into force in England on Wednesday.