Information

Restrictions to large events: FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002


Information requested

I am contacting you to ask for a freedom of information request to provide evidence as to why large events have been targeted in latest restrictions.

I would like to know why football is constantly being targeted by government restrictions, when it is played outside in a safe environment, and an environment where covid is less likely to spread?

Social distancing has not been enforced as law, we can still travel safely on public transport, so why have large events been targeted as a means of “reducing transmission” when there has never been a large scale outbreak at a football game.

The government must consider the impact such closures have on the mental health of millions of people across the country when making such rash decisions.

Can you please provide me with the data you used to reach the conclusion that large events such as a football game cause large transmission?

I would like to know why there can be games played at full capacity on the 22nd of December but must be played in front of a crowd of 500 from the 26th? Where did this number 500 come from? What was the reasoning behind this figure? Can you please provide me with the data to substantiate this figure?

There has also been significant research completed by South African scientists who concluded that omicron is milder than other variants such as delta.

Why are we not considering the views of top scientists and introducing restrictions when hospital numbers are decreasing and deaths are decreasing?”

Response

Regarding your first question, the Scottish Government does not have the information you have asked for because this information does not exist. It is rarely possible to isolate the exact location of infection.

Public Health Scotland, which holds the Test and Protect data, cannot infer from the case figures whether a specific setting or an event indicates where a COVID-19 transmission took place.

This is because cases may have attended multiple settings or events within a short space of time. In addition, it is possible that even though a case visited a few settings and events, transmission may have taken place elsewhere.

This is a formal notice under section 17(1) of FOISA that the Scottish Government does not have the information you have requested.

However, it may be helpful to note that the Public Health Scotland website hosts a publication which reports settings and events that index cases have attended over the previous 7 days. This is based on interviews conducted with cases identified in the Case Management System (CMS) and involves cases recalling where they have been in the 7 days prior to symptom onset (or date of test if asymptomatic).

This report is updated weekly, and figures relating to various settings are available in the ‘Settings’ tab of the interactive dashboard accompanying the report. More information on event groupings can also be found in the accompanying metadata document.

The report containing the data that was publicly available in December 2021 and January 2022, which is the period covering your request, can be accessed at the following link: Show all releases - Publications - Public Health Scotland.

However, please note, as discussed above, that this accounts only for locations and events visited by individuals and is not a measure or record of transmission settings.

For further information regarding Test and Protect data, you may wish to contact Public Health Scotland via the following webpage: Your FOI request - Freedom of Information (FOI) and Environmental Information Regulation (EIR) requests - Contact us - Public Health Scotland.

Under section 25(1) of FOISA, we do not have to give you information which is already reasonably accessible to you.

Regarding your second question, it is important to note that given the increased transmissibility of Omicron and its high attack rate, and the exemption scheme which operated previously had allowed Local Authorities to permit larger numbers at events, providing they were satisfied that appropriate mitigating measures were put in place was temporarily withdrawn.

Without the re-introduction of event capacity limits this would have led to an increase in cases. We also know that the much higher transmissibility of Omicron meant that large gatherings have the potential to become very rapid super-spreader events, putting large numbers at risk of getting infected very quickly. The view was that limiting these events helped reduce the risk of widespread transmission.

It also cut down the transmission risks associated with travel to and from such events. These large events also put an additional burden on emergency services, especially the police and ambulance services, at a time when these services are already under severe pressure and also dealing with high staff absences.

Limiting large scale events helped emergency services focus on delivering essential services to the public.

Data from the ONS Infection Survey suggests there is a close association between the protective measures in place in Scotland during December and January and reducing rates of Omicron in Scotland. Were it not for these developments, case numbers seen during this period could easily have been even higher.

Regarding the evidence underpinning these decisions, the Scottish Government considers a wide range of evidence when making decisions on restrictions. Details on impacts from economic, general wellbeing, mental health and anxiety and other non-COVID related health harms can be found in the four harms dashboard which is updated weekly and can be found at https://data.gov.scot/coronaviruscovid-19/. On the 11th of December an evidence paper (Coronavirus (COVID-19): Omicron in Scotland -evidence paper - gov.scot (www.gov.scot)) was published. On page 6 there is an outline of the implications of the spread of Omicron.

Throughout the epidemic, synthesising scientific evidence and presenting it to Government has been important. The evidence which informs the Scottish Government is drawn from analysis which informs SAGE, including via its sub-groups, the UK Health Security Agency and scientific literature from across the world. Details can be found at: List of participants of SAGE and relatedsub-groups - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk). The latest publicly available evidence from SAGE is available at: Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies - GOV.UK(www.gov.uk). All relevant papers are published.

For example, the UK Health Security Agency risk assessment on Omicron, updated on 23rd December (Investigation of SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern: variant risk assessments - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)), was based on analysis of UK data showing increased household transmission risk, increased secondary attack rates and substantially increased growth rates compared to Delta.

About FOI
The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at http://www.gov.scot/foi-responses.

Contact

Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
EH1 3DG

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