Mainland Scotland moves into level 4 lockdown

Mainland Scotland moves into level 4 lockdown

Mainland Scotland has moved into the toughest level of coronavirus restrictions.

From Boxing Day, most of the country will be in level four – the highest of the country’s five-tier system of anti-virus measures.

This means non-essential shops, pubs, restaurants and gyms will close. The period is intended to last for an initial three weeks.

However, Nicola Sturgeon has not ruled out a further tightening of level four.

At an emergency briefing a week ago, the first minister said “firm preventative action” was needed after the emergence of a faster-spreading strain of coronavirus.

It emerged on Thursday that the new, more virulent strain of the virus was responsible for 38% of the positive cases recorded.

Some opposition politicians have raised doubts about whether Scotland would be able to emerge after that period, or if tighter restrictions would be in place for longer.

The Boxing Day lockdown applies across Scotland, with the exception of Orkney, Shetland, the Western Isles and other island communities where restrictions have recently been reduced. These areas will be placed in level three.

It follows a 24-hour period of relaxed rules for Christmas Day.

For one day only, bubbles could be formed with other households and travel restrictions were eased.

The original plans to ease restrictions for five days were scrapped following the emergence of a new variant which is believed to be 70% more transmissable.

A travel ban remains in place for the entire festive period.

The relaxed rules came into effect as 1,165 people tested positive for the virus in the previous 24 hours.

Figures for deaths, hospital admissions and intensive care cases will be updated on 29 December.

Schools will return later than originally planned after the Christmas holidays.

Ms Sturgeon said they should resume from 11 January, with learning taking place online until at least 18 January.

The new variant was first seen in mid-September in London and Kent – but by December it had become the “dominant variant” in London.

Government advisers believe the new variant could increase the R number – or reproductive rate of the virus – by 0.4 or more.

Nicola Sturgeon said there was no evidence to suggest the new strain made people sicker than earlier variants, or that it would change the effectiveness of the vaccine.

When the Boxing Day restrictions were announced, Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said families would be “devastated”, but that he understood why the restrictions were necessary.

“None of us want this, but these sacrifices will save lives,” he said.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said the Scottish government needed to publish “persuasive evidence” to avert a “heightened risk of non-compliance”.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats and the Scottish Greens both backed the moves.

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