UNDERSTANDING Covid restrictions was compared to trying to “tackle Ikea wardrobe instructions” during a meeting of East Lothian Council.

During a virtual meeting on Tuesday in which councillors raised concerns about the tier the county was about to be put in, Provost John McMillan made the comparison.

And Councillor Norman Hampshire, depute council leader, warned elected members Covid was likely to be around for at least another year as he pledged to fight to have some of the tough restrictions in place in East Lothian lifted.

The committee also heard that an outbreak at Queen Margaret University, Musselburgh, which saw students self isolate, had been contained with the number of positive cases of Covid between 10 to 12 people.

And they were told that East Lothian Community Hospital, which opened one of two mothballed wards during lockdown to support Covid cases in NHS Lothian with additional 24 beds was preparing to have the second ward open by December providing a further 20 beds.

Councillors were told the rate of Covid cases in East Lothian currently stood at 73.8 cases per 100,000 population.

Concerns were raised that despite the rate being far below Edinburgh and neighbouring Midlothian and West Lothian, the county had been ordered into the 16-day central belt wide circuit breaker introduced earlier this month after it was introduced by health board area.

The Scottish Government is due to announce a new five-tier system of restrictions tomorrow (Thursday) and where each local authority area will be placed with fears East Lothian will be put in Tier Three – which will leave hospitality unable to open and serve alcohol - despite other areas with higher levels of the virus being in lower tiers.

The complex framework used to decide where to place East Lothian and other local authorities involves the number of cases, population age, percentage of cases showing positive and other factors.

Councillor McMillan said: “Interpreting some of the guidance has been likened to tackling Ikea wardrobe instructions.”

Councillor Hampshire insisted that he would fight to have the county placed in a lower tier as he warned businesses would not survive continued restrictions and a better balance was needed.

He told the meeting: “We will still be dealing with Covid in a year’s time so balancing that situation and what businesses are looking at in another lockdown, we need to manage our businesses properly or we will lose them, they will be gone.

“I’ve raised concerns that the level in East Lothian is much lower than other areas. The difference between tier two and tier three has a significant impact on businesses in East Lothian.

“We need to make sure we make the right decision to keep people safe and protect our businesses.”

He was backed by Councillor Lachlan Bruce, opposition leader, who said: “Decisions need to be that are right for East Lothian and if that means standing up to the Scottish Government then so be it.”

SNP group leader Councillor Stuart Currie however said: “It seems to me we have to follow the science and data.

“Whatever decisions are made there needs to be confidence by everyone that decisions are made in our best interests.”

The council meeting heard that the figures in East Lothian were so low that they could be affected by a single cluster outbreak such as the one at Queen Margaret University earlier in the month.

Sharon Saunders, head of communities, told members that cluster had been successfully contained .

She said: “There has been a number of cases at QMU, between 10 and 12, that is being managed quite well.”

Alison Macdonald, director of East Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership, confirmed that a second unused ward at East Lothian Community Hospital, which opened last year in Haddington, was being opened to support NHS Lothian Covid cases.

Councillor Hampshire welcomed the update on the situation in the county but warned it was important to ensure it was reflected in the tier the area is placed into by Scottish Government.

He told the meeting: “We have been really successful in doing everything we can to restrict this virus and we had good success because people have been adhering to the regulations, following guidance and operating businesses in the way they have been instructed to.

“To keep confidence going we need to make sure everyone is treated fairly with the regulations and it is not looking like everyone is being treated fairly.”

“If we cannot keep confidence in the system we will find people will start to not listen to us and that will create a problem for the council.”