Analysis: Why have two million Scots been put into level four lockdown?

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced on Tuesday that a swathe of western Scotland and the central belt will move into the toughest lockdown restrictions of level four.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon leaves after making a statement to the Scottish Parliament. Photo by Russell Cheyne/Getty Images
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon leaves after making a statement to the Scottish Parliament. Photo by Russell Cheyne/Getty Images

The 11 local authority areas – Glasgow, Renfrewshire, East Renfrewshire, East Dunbartonshire, West Dunbartonshire, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire, East Ayrshire, South Ayrshire, Stirling and West Lothian – will enter level four at 6am on Friday, and stay there for three weeks, until December 11.

Nicola Sturgeon said the intervention was meant to be “short and sharp”, and that it was designed to have an impact in advance of the Christmas period.

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In each case the justification for such harsh measures – including the closure of non-essential shops, pubs, restaurants and gyms - was said to be to ease pressure on the NHS in winter.

“We simply do not have the assurance we need that hospital and ICU services will be able to cope as we go deeper into winter,” Nicola Sturgeon said.

In some areas such as Stirling, the number of Covid-19 cases has risen compared to last week.

In most areas – including East and West Dunbartonshire, East Renfrewshire, Renfrewshire, Glasgow and East and West Dunbartonshire – there has not been enough improvement, according to the restriction review.

In North and South Lanarkshire cases and test positivity is decreasing, but the review states there is still too much pressure on NHS Lanarkshire.

The health board has the second-highest case rate per 100,000 population in the last seven days, at 234.8, just behind Glasgow at 240.9.

NHS Fife has the highest rate per 100,000 population of any health board not in level four restrictions, at 144.6, but the area remains unchanged from last week.

So far the pattern suggests that areas are unlikely to quickly change between levels or jump from one level to another much lower or higher – all the areas now going into level four had been in level three since the new system came into force, and there was no change to Fife, Perth and Kinross, and Angus, which went from level two to level three last week.

Government analysis states it is “too early to tell” if last week’s changes to these three areas have had any effect.

Argyll and Bute is the only area which is under review to move down a level next week, from level two to level one.

Last week the Western Isles and Orkney were under consideration for a move from level one to level zero, but this didn’t happen and a possible move has not been mentioned this week.

Both areas continue to be scrutinised to see if changes to allow indoor socialising between households have any impact.

Decisions are made about which level to place each area in based on five factors.

The first three relate to rates of Covid-19 in the area: The case rate per 100,000 people in the previous week; the percentage of positive tests in that same period; and forecasts of cases per 100,000 in the next two weeks.

The final two are concerned with the local authority itself: Current and projected use of hospital beds, and current and projected use of ICU beds.

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