New emergency measures
Pubs and restaurants face new Covid shutdown
Hospitality businesses face another period of lockdown
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon could announce a temporary closure of Scotland’s pubs and restaurants today in a bid to halt the spread of the coronavirus.
Ms Sturgeon is expected to follow the Prime Minister’s new restrictions on the hospitality sector amid an alarming upsurge in cases of the virus.
Government advisers believe crowds of revellers refusing to abide by social distancing rules are part of the problem.
Ms Sturgeon will announce the latest crackdown at about 5pm while Boris Johnson will make a live TV announcement at 8pm after chairing an emergency Cobra meeting with the leaders of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.
Mr Johnson is set to impose a 10pm curfew on all pubs, bars and restaurants in England.
By law, pubs and restaurants will only be allowed to provide table service during the new limited trading hours.
Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish Government is prepared to introduce “a package of additional measures” but will aim to avoid another full-scale lockdown.
Among options said to be under consideration is to close down all entertainment venues and personal services including hairdressers and beauticians for a short period. There may also be further restrictions on travel.
The new measures will come in after the UK’s four chief medical officers recommended raising the Covid alert level from three to four – the second highest level of emergency.
On Monday, restrictions were announced in Northern Ireland banning two households from mixing indoors, except for single-person bubbles and certain other exemptions.
Businesses fearful that they may not survive a further period of restrictions will be hoping Mr Johnson will indicate how the government plans to support them.
There has been speculation that the Chancellor Rishi Sunak will offer a further month of grant and loan support.
Mr Sunak has said that he will be “creative” in propping up the economy, after coming under pressure from MPs on both sides of the House of Commons to continue the government’s support schemes.
The government has hinted at a package of support for the aviation and wider travel sector.
Most of the business loans so far have been through the government’s “bounce back” scheme, which has offered up to £50,000 interest-free. More more than 1.1 million businesses have used that system so far, borrowing more than £35bn.
Meanwhile, 60,000 firms have borrowed £13.7bn using the government’s coronavirus business interruption loan scheme, which backs bank loans of up to £5m for firms that are struggling because of the pandemic.
The large business interruption scheme has loaned £3.5bn to bigger businesses, guaranteeing lending of up to £200m.