Ruth Maguire MSP has urged local residents to bear in mind new powers given to police which allow them to break up house parties to tackle community transmission of Covid-19.

The update in regulations have been in effect from Friday 28 August and makes it an offence to breach guidelines by hosting a large house party indoors. This is hoped to ensure that socialising can continue to take place safely as a rise of indoor gatherings is expected in autumn and winter.

A cluster of 22 coronavirus cases recorded by NHS Ayrshire and Arran has been linked to house parties which took place last weekend.

The SNP MSP said: “It cannot be stressed enough that the guidelines are in place to protect public health. Complacency cannot be allowed to set in at this point as we have come so far in tackling the virus.

“I appreciate that people are keen to meet up with groups of friends during this difficult time, but this must be done safely in order to avoid a localised lockdown in North Ayrshire which we have seen take place already in Aberdeen.

“I’d like to once again thank residents in North Ayrshire who have shown patience throughout this time in sticking with the guidelines put in place.”

Speaking last week ahead of the introduction of new rules, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “We know from our test and protect teams – and also from evidence around the world – that large, indoor gatherings pose a major transmission risk.

“The majority of people, young and old, will be sticking with limits under current guidance – and I am very grateful for that – however, there are a minority who don’t.

“I want to make it very clear – particularly to young people – that this is not about stopping you having fun, but enabling you to have fun safely.

“Ensuring police have the powers to enter and disperse large house parties is another tool in suppressing the virus. While we expect these powers to be used as a last resort, it will help to reduce the potential for future clusters and outbreaks.”

Dr Crawford McGuffie, Medical Director at NHS Ayrshire and Arran said: “NHS Ayrshire & Arran’s Health Protection Team is currently conducting a contact tracing exercise following a number of individuals who have tested positive for Coronavirus (COVID-19) infection.

“These positive cases have been linked to a number of house parties.

“Those who have been identified as close contacts through this process will be contacted directly by the Test and Protect Team and advised to self-isolate for 14 days.

“To respect and maintain patient confidentiality it is not possible to release any further information at this time.”

Under current guidance, no more than eight people from a maximum of three different households should be meeting indoors. That remains in place. To take account of varying sizes and compositions of families across Scotland, it will be an offence for someone to have a party indoors in their house with more than fifteen people from more than one household present, with limited exceptions.