Covid in Scotland: Half a million Scots set for tougher restrictions

Covid in Scotland: Half a million Scots set for tougher restrictions

More than half a million people in three areas are to be moved into a tougher Covid restrictions level later.

From 18:00 GMT, Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire and East Lothian will all move from level two to level three of Scotland’s five-tiered system.

The local authority areas will face restrictions on movement, leisure activities and hospitality in a bid to reverse rising numbers of Covid cases.

The country’s other 29 council areas will remain in their current levels.

This includes Edinburgh, which had been hoping to be downgraded to level two. The changes were announced at Tuesday’s weekly review of the tier system.

It means people will no longer be allowed to travel outside of their own council area unless it is essential.

Pubs, cafes and restaurants will have to stop serving alcohol and must shut at 18:00.

And indoor entertainment venues such as cinemas, bingo halls and amusement arcades will also have to close.

Indoor exercise, including gyms, is restricted to individual and not group exercise.

Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire and East Lothian join the 18 other councils in level three, meaning 80% of Scotland’s population will now be under level three restrictions.

With festive easing on the way next week, the levels will be reviewed again next Tuesday.

Prof James Chalmers, of the University of Dundee, told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland he believed the Scottish government should have “reversed” the decision to relax measures over Christmas – and that Scotland was “on course” for another national lockdown.

He said: “I think if we continue on the current course that we have high levels of cases across the UK and Scotland and then we have a relaxation over Christmas, we’re looking at a spike in cases in early January.

“The only way we’ve seen over the last year to control a big spike is to have national lockdowns so I think we’re heading in the direction of a lockdown unless there’s a change in policy.”

Current Covid rules will be relaxed between 23 and 27 December to allow people to travel within the UK and spend Christmas together.

The government said on Wednesday it would toughen its Christmas guidance with people urged not to stay overnight in another house unless necessary.

And on Thursday night, new analysis suggested the R number in Scotland was now between 0.9 and 1.1.

This was an increase from the previous week’s report, which estimated R to be between 0.7 and 0.9.

If the reproduction value – which is a measure of how the disease is spreading – is higher than one, then the number of cases increases exponentially.

However, if it it remains lower than one then the disease will eventually stop spreading, because not enough new people are being infected to sustain the outbreak.

NHS Borders has also warned that a rise cases meant the region’s infection rates are “no longer consistent” with level one restrictions.

Ministers have ruled out a law change around the five-day festivities.

But the deputy first minister warned that tougher restrictions – including a potential lockdown – after the festive period cannot be ruled out.

On Thursday, John Swinney said the Scottish government would review Covid levels next Tuesday as part of an unplanned “decision-making moment”.

He said the move reflected the “deteriorating situation” across Scotland and the UK.

Mr Swinney said next week’s review “reflected the changing position that had developed over the last two or three weeks”.

He added: “We’ll have to look at what the forward prospects look like, we’ll have to take decisions that will be sustainable for a period into January and February to protect the public interest and protect the National Health Service.”

Asked specifically if there could be greater restrictions or a possible lockdown, he said: “That could be a possibility, I can’t rule it out.”

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