Scotland has banned mass gatherings because of coronavirus - here's what the ban means

As the coronavirus continues to spread, the impetus is on governments to introduce new measures to help curb the transmission of the disease.

In Scotland, one such scheme designed to halt the advancement of the virus is the banning of ‘mass gatherings’, a rule which comes in force from today (16 March).

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The new government guidelines define a mass gathering as “any event with more than 500 attendees”, and say that while the government does not have the power to cancel events, it expects “organisations and bodies in Scotland to operate responsibly in this unprecedented situation, and to take appropriate action in response to this advice.”

Here’s everything you need to know:

Which events are affected?

The biggest casualty under the new guidelines is sport.

Though all domestic professional and grassroots football under the jurisdiction of the Scottish FA have already been suspended until further notice, as have rugby games under the SRU, the government acknowledges that “there will clearly be implications across all organised sport in Scotland” following the new advice.

“We recognise that these measures will have a specific impact on sports events – and in particular on sports like football and rugby, given the large attendances at many games, and the large number of people who participate,” they say.

Any large event with an audience of over 500 – concerts, theatre shows etc – is advised to cancel under the new guidelines.

What about smaller events?

Where an event involves relatively small numbers, but is likely to have a potential impact on emergency services, organisers “should consider it on its merits, alongside current health advice.”

Why is the new advice being brought in?

The new advice isn’t actually being introduced to stop the spread of coronavirus.

“The current clinical advice is that cancelling events will not significantly delay the spread of the virus,” say the government.

“This advice on the cancellation of mass events is being made on the basis of protecting our services’ capacity to deliver essential services.”

How does the new advice affect weddings, funerals etc?

If you’re lucky enough to have 500 or more guests attending your wedding or the funeral of a loved one, you might want to reconsider the guestlist in light of the government’s new advice.

As mentioned, the government “cannot instruct organisers to cancel events”, but says that it hopes “organisers will follow this advice, to support our public services in responding to COVID-19.”

What about other areas where there are more than 500 people?

It’s not only organised events that can see audiences of more than 500 people; a busy shopping centre could see the same amount of people in a relatively confined space.

However, the new advice does not apply to “public transport, educational settings, workplaces, shopping centres or public spaces.”

Likewise, “this advice does not impact on travel to or from Scotland.”

How long will the advice be in force?

The advice will remain in force “until amended”, and the Scottish government say they “will continue to work closely with the UK Government, other devolved administrations, expert advisers and our Resilience partners on this, and all other aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Coronavirus: the facts

What is coronavirus?

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that can affect lungs and airways. It is caused by a virus called coronavirus.

What caused coronavirus?

The outbreak started in Wuhan in China in December 2019 and it is thought that the virus, like others of its kind, has come from animals.

How is it spread?

As this is such a new illness, experts still aren’t sure how it is spread. But.similar viruses are spread in cough droplets.

Therefore covering your nose and mouth when sneezing and coughing, and disposing of used tissues straight away is advised. Viruses like coronavirus cannot live outside the body for very long.

What are the symptoms?

The NHS states that the symptoms are: a dry cough, high temperature and shortness of breath - but these symptoms do not necessarily mean you have the illness.

Look out for flu-like symptoms, such as aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose and a sore throat. It’s important to remember that some people may become infected but won’t develop any symptoms or feel unwell.

What precautions can be taken?

Washing your hands with soap and water thoroughly.

The NHS also advises to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze; put used tissues in the bin immediately and try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell. Also avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth unless your hands are clean.

Government advice

As of the 12 March the Government has moved into the "delay" phase of its plan to tackle coronavirus. Advice is that anyone with a continuous cough or high temperature should self-isolate for seven days.

People over 70 have been advised not to go on cruises and schools advised to cancel trips abroad, though schools remain open.

Should I avoid public places?

Most people who feel well can continue to go to work, school and public places and should only stay at home and self isolate if advised by a medical professional or the coronavirus service.

What should I do if I feel unwell?

Don’t go to your GP but instead call NHS 111 or look online at the coronavirus service that can tell you if you need medical help and what to do next.

When to call NHS 111

NHS 111 should be used if you feel unwell with coronavirus symptoms, have been in a country with a high risk of coronavirus in the last 14 days or if you have been in close contact with someone with the virus.

Sources: World Health Organisation and NHS