Dramatic Covid u-turn
Festivities curtailed to Christmas Day only
Nicola Sturgeon: firm action is necessary
Christmas festivities have been dramatically curtailed and millions of family plans and businesses thrown into disarray to halt the spread of a new coronavirus variant.
Indoor mixing in Scotland will be allowed within bubbles for a maximum of eight people from three households on Christmas Day only.
The toughest level four restrictions will be applied across the country from Boxing Day for three weeks, with the exception of the islands. It will mean closure of hospitality and non-essential shops.
Apart from Christmas Day there will be a strict travel ban throughout the festive period. The Scotland-England border will be closed to all but essential travel. The position on international travel will be reviewed next week.
Schools will remain open until the scheduled holiday break, with lessons resuming on 11 January but online only until 18 January, except for key workers’ children and the most vulnerable.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was forced to follow an earlier decision by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to tighten the restrictions announced for England at a Downing Street briefing.
Ms Sturgeon said the situation in Scotland is not as bad as in other parts of the UK, but the new strain of the virus could be up to 70% more transmissable.
Scotland has the lowest case rate in the UK, with 112.6 cases per 100,000 of the population. This compares to 571.7 in Wales, 219.6 in England and 174.9 in Northern Ireland.
The First Minister said maintaining a “strict travel ban” would prevent more of the new strain entering Scotland from other parts of the UK, and reduce the risk of it spreading further within Scotland.
Delivering an unscheduled briefing from Edinburgh, she said: “It is the most dangerous juncture we have faced and we have to act accordingly.
She said: “To limit, as far as we can, the risk of this strain spreading further than it has within Scotland, we intend to apply Level 4 measures to all of mainland Scotland for a period of three weeks from one minute after midnight on Boxing Day morning.
“If you had people travelling to join you from elsewhere in the UK that will no longer be permitted.
“Very firm preventative action is now necessary. If we do nothing now things will get much worse.”
She admitted the decision had been difficult but unavoidable. “Standing here makes me want to cry,” she said.
The whole of Wales is also placed under lockdown from midnight with festive plans cancelled for all but Christmas Day. Northern Ireland has already announced a stringent six-week lockdown to come into effect on Boxing Day during which all non-essential retail must close, including click & collect.