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Road congestion worse than during first lockdown, says Scottish transport secretary

Scottish Transport Secretary Michael Matheson has said some firms are still asking staff to go to office when they could work from home.

Traffic levels across the country are higher than during the first lockdown imposed in March last year.
Traffic levels across the country are higher than during the first lockdown imposed in March last year.

It comes as the Scottish Government is considering further Covid-19 restrictions to tackle the spread of the virus.

Nicola Sturgeon will announce any changes in front of Holyrood at 12.30pm today, during First Minister’s Questions.

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Mr Matheson, who was involved in cabinet discussions with the First Minister yesterday, has expressed concerns about the amount of traffic on the roads.

Speaking ahead of her statement, Mr Matheson said there is an “element of concern” about the number of journeys people are making.

Scots are being told to stay at home as much as possible and only leave for essential purposes – such as food shopping, medical appointments or work that cannot be done from home.

Mr Matheson said there had been a “marked decline in traffic overall” since tougher restrictions came into force across the Scottish mainland on Boxing Day.

But he added traffic levels are still “slightly above what they were in the lockdown last year”.

He told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme that Ms Sturgeon will outline measures to “reduce that yet further”.

Mr Matheson urged businesses to play their part in the effort to suppress coronavirus by ensuring staff work from home where they can.

His comments came as the number of Scots in hospital rose again on Tuesday to stand at 1,717 – another record high and more than was recorded at the peak of the first wave of the pandemic.

Mr Matheson said: “It is absolutely critical if you are a business that had most of your staff, if not all of your staff, working from home in the lockdown earlier last year then that should be happening now during the course of the present lockdown arrangements.

“I think there is an element that some businesses are continuing to operate because they have put mitigation measures in place and they believe they can still have staff coming into office spaces and workplaces in a way that we don’t believe is appropriate.

“It is absolutely critical that businesses that had their staff working from home during the previous lockdown have them working from home in the present lockdown and in doing that they can help to support us in suppressing the virus and protecting the NHS.

“The First Minister is going to set out some measures in her statement to Parliament later on today, but we all have a collective responsibility to make sure we are doing everything we can to meet what is the biggest challenge we have faced during the course of this pandemic.

“Given the pressures our National Health Service is currently experiencing due to the number of patients that are now in hospital as a result of Covid-19, businesses have an important role to play to support us in doing that.”

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