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Two million Scots facing three weeks of closures

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Businesses in almost half of Scotland will be plunged into pre-Christmas uncertainty as a result of tough new restrictions to fight the coronavirus.

From this weekend nine local authority areas in the central belt – accounting for about two million people (40% of the population) – will be under level four restrictions – the toughest tier. It will force shops, pubs, restaurants and leisure facilities to close and impose severe controls on people’s movement.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said more help would be offered to businesses and announced a £15m support fund to the newly self-employed, but trade groups fear the support on offer will not be sufficient to save many firms from permanent closure.

Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said grants currently available in Scotland of around £1,500 “do not scratch the surface”.

She said: “We must see levels more like in the first stages of lockdown with cash grants available more in the range of £10,000 or £25,000 depending on severity and need.”

The Scottish Retail Consortium estimates the three-week shutdown will affect more than 45% of non-essential shops in Scotland, and those shops will lose out on over £90 million per week in lost revenue whilst they are closed.

The Scottish Licensed Trade Association’s managing director, Colin Wilkinson, said: “This is the worst possible news for the licensed hospitality industry and there will be many operators who will now be seriously considering if their businesses have a future at all – that’s how serious the situation is.”

Tracy Black, CBI Scotland director, said: “Firms also want to see robust evidence that closing more businesses will reduce the level of transmission. Many companies will need a significant increase in support immediately if they are to keep their heads above water.”

Eleven council areas are to move from level 3 to level 4 from 6pm Friday until 11 December.

They are City of Glasgow, Renfrewshire, East Renfrewshire, East Dunbartonshire, West Dunbartonshire, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire, East Ayrshire, South Ayrshire, Stirling and West Lothian.

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said infection rates in these areas remain “stubbornly and worryingly high”.

Nineteen council areas – including Edinburgh, Perth & Kinross and Angus – will see no change this week and two – East Lothian and Midlothian – will move from level 3 to level 2.

In the level 4 zone restaurants, cafes, pubs and bars will be closed. Takeaways can still operate as normal, provided food and drink is sold for consumption off premises. Face coverings and physical distancing rules must be followed.

Hotels and other accommodation providers can still serve food to qualifying guests i.e. key or exempt workers, staying in their premises up to 10pm. Room service, including alcohol, is allowed as normal.

Only essential retail will be able to remain open in level 4 providing they follow and have implemented Scottish Government guidance to ensure the safety of customers and staff. 

Stadia must be closed to spectators. No live events are permitted. Outdoor gyms can remain open. Outdoor non-contact sports are permitted for all age groups.

All indoor visitor attractions such as museums, galleries, heritage attractions, indoor areas of zoos and aquariums are closed. Outdoor visitor attractions, such as parks, gardens and the outdoor areas of zoos may remain open.

Guidance on travel restrictions will become law from Friday, said Ms Sturgeon.

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This means those living in level three or level four must not travel outside their own council area, except for certain essential purposes.

And those living elsewhere in Scotland must not travel to level three or level four areas, again apart from in limited exceptional circumstances.

There is to be no non-essential travel between Scotland and other parts of the UK.

Individuals should not meet anyone who is not in their household indoors in their own home or in another home. Individuals can meet another household indoors in a public place. The maximum number of people who can meet indoors in a public (not a home) place is 6 which can be from up to 2 separate households. 

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