Coronavirus in Scotland: What are the new Christmas and Level Four restrictions?

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced a change to Covid-19 rules around Christmas in Scotland.

Christmas will be virtual for many this year.
Christmas will be virtual for many this year.

The changes, announced at a press briefing on Saturday, were prompted by a new variant of Covid-19 which is known to spread faster than previously known strains.

The variant is currently most prevalent in the South East of England but Ms Sturgeon said 17 cases have been identified in Scotland, with more unidentified cases likely to exist.

Sign up to our public interest bulletins - get the latest news on the Coronavirus

Sign up to our public interest bulletins - get the latest news on the Coronavirus

What are the new rules for Christmas in Scotland?

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

The First Minister announced that instead of the five-day easing of restrictions which was planned between December 23 and 25, people in Scotland will now only be able to mix with other households on Christmas day.

The limit of three households and a maximum of eight people will remain.

But Ms Sturgeon said her “strong advice” was for households not to mix at all.

By law, Scots will only be allowed to travel to and from other areas in Scotland on Christmas day, with no staying over night.

There will be a ban on travel between Scotland and the rest of the UK, unless for essential purposes covered by long-standing exceptions, throughout the Christmas period.

What are the Level Four restrictions?

All of mainland Scotland will go into Level Four restrictions from one minute after midnight on Christmas Day, for three weeks.

Non-essential shops will close along with cafes, restaurants and hairdressers.

Orkney, Shetland, the Western Isles and other Island communities will move to Level 3.

Schools will open on January 11 for vulnerable children and the children of keyworkers, but the rest of pupils the majority of pupils will not return on January 11, with online learning until at least January 18.

What about travel restrictions?

The travel ban between Scotland and the rest of the UK will remain throughout the period of Level Four restrictions.

Ms Sturgeon said she will speak to police and transport operators to see how this can be “strengthened”.

She said the move will prevent more of the new strain entering Scotland from other parts of the UK and reduce the risk of it spreading within the country.

Are restrictions being eased for Hogmanay?

The First Minister has previously said there will be no easing of restrictions for Hogmanay.

How will the new measures be enforced?

Ms Sturgeon said she would leave the enforcement of the new restrictions up to Police Scotland.

But the force has now confirmed that it will not change its approach to policing travel, and Assistant Chief Constable Alan Speirs said officers will use enforcement only “as a last resort”.

Why were Scots not told about this earlier?

Ms Sturgeon insisted that the Scottish Government was not aware of the severity of this new Covid-19 strain and the need to take measures to prevent its spread until crisis talks were held on Saturday.

National Clinical Director Jason Leitch told Scots to prepare for a “digital Christmas” in October, but guidance was issued in November that Scots would be able to form festive "bubbles" with other households.

Asked if she wished she had not given that guidance, Ms Sturgeon said she would not be changing the rules around Christmas if it were not for the new Covid-19 variant.

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.