LiveNicola Sturgeon coronavirus briefing RECAP: Full lockdown for mainland Scotland

Follow here for the latest updates on the Prime Minister and First Minister’s announcements on Christmas.

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Mainland Scotland goes under Level 4 as Boris Johnson says Christmas “cannot go ahead as planned” in England.

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The strict measures have come into place following unscheduled briefings from both the Prime Minister and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon where they shared concerns for a “sharp rise” in cases of a new strain of Covid across England and Wales.

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Nicola Sturgeon coronavirus briefing RECAP: Full lockdown for mainland Scotland

Last updated: Saturday, 19 December, 2020, 20:55

  • Level 4 restrictions for all mainland Scotland from Boxing Day for three weeks
  • ‘We cannot go ahead with Christmas as planned’ says PM
  • Wales in full lockdown and London and other areas of England to go under new Tier 4 from tomorrow morning

Swathes of people cram into London station ahead of lockdown rules

Read more here

Opposition to Nicola Sturgeon’s recent measures on schools

The FM has been urged to close schools early after warning of new coronavirus strain.

Scotland’s opposition leaders have backed plans to impose tighter restrictions over Christmas, but called on Nicola Sturgeon to close schools immediately and publish the evidence for the decision.

The First Minister announced that indoor household gatherings would only be allowed on Christmas Day and a “strict travel ban” would be imposed between Scotland and the rest of the UK.

Schools will continue to open as normal until the start of the Christmas break, with the holiday being extended until January 11 for most pupils.

Online learning will resume for at least the first week of term, although schools will be open for the most vulnerable and children of key workers.

Responding to Ms Sturgeon’s announcement, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: “The Scottish Government must make decisions based on public health advice and solid evidence.

“To win public confidence behind this significant tightening of restrictions requires persuasive evidence to be published, transparency and openness, and a substantial rise in testing, otherwise not only will there be disappointment there will be a heightened risk of non-compliance.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “When the science speaks in such stark terms, the leadership of the country must listen and act.

“Shutting down mainland Scotland for three weeks will have a great impact on people’s lives, but it is the response that is necessary to match this new threat.

“However, the Scottish Government should act earlier by closing schools next week.

“The new strain of the virus is already here and pupils and teachers who are infected in school next week could pass it on to vulnerable relatives on Christmas Day. Let’s be safe and close the schools early.”

Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie said the First Minister’s caution was “necessary”.

He added: “If this is going to work, we need to step up the support for people self-isolating, especially for those on insecure income.

“This means widening the criteria for receiving financial support and offering accommodation where it is urgently needed.

“The staggered school return is also a sensible approach, one we had already been advocating.

“But it must be accompanied by the regular, routine Covid-19 testing in schools which Parliament has voted for and which teachers are demanding, and clinically vulnerable staff must not be forced to put their lives on the line by coming into schools.

“Many people will be baffled that the Government is still insisting on opening schools for two days this week, and I would urge local authorities to close early to keep staff, pupils and communities safe.

“Pressures on the NHS are already on the rise, as it deals with winter workload and the roll-out of the vaccine.

“The last thing we all need is for a surge in cases, just as we can see light at the end of the tunnel. Gatherings of friends and family will be all the more sweeter when this is all over.”

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “Families across Scotland will be devastated at these new measures, especially so close to Christmas.

“However, given the rapidly increasing spread of the virus across the UK, and until our scientists know more about the transmission of this new variant, it is understandable why these restrictions are necessary at this time.

“None of us want this, but these sacrifices will save lives.

“We would expect the Scottish Government to ensure a return to regional levels of restrictions as soon as it is safe to do so.”

What are the new covid Level 4 restrictions for Scotland? And why they have been introduced

What are the new rules?

Covid restrictions will only be relaxed on Christmas Day.

On December 25, Scots are able to form a bubble with two other households, and a maximum of 8 people, age 12 and over. Scots are advised to minimise the time spent with their bubble, especially indoors.

A travel ban has been “strengthened” between Scotland and other parts of the UK – except for essential purposes.

Scots are advised to avoid all travel between high prevalence and low prevalence areas - in particular, that means avoiding travel to or from Scotland and Tier 3 and Tier 4 areas of England, and to or from any Level 4 areas in Scotland.

The Scottish Government advises: “The safest way to celebrate Christmas this year is to celebrate with your own household in your own home - and as far as possible to keep any interaction with other households to a minimum.”

All of mainland Scotland will enter Level 4 – the toughest of the country’s five tiers of restrictions – for three weeks from one minute after midnight on Boxing Day morning.

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

Schools will open for key workers as normal, but the majority of pupils will not return on January 11, with online learning until at least January 18.

What were the rules and why were they changed?

Previously Scots were told that they could form a Christmas bubble with three other households for the period between December 23 and 27.

Now the Scottish Government has performed a dramatic U-turn, citing the increasing prevalence of a new strain of Covid.

Ms Sturgeon explained the new measures 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.

The new strain of the virus is the “most serious and potentially dangerous juncture” faced since the start of the pandemic, she said.

She said 17 cases of the new strain had been identified in Scotland and may be driving faster transmission of Covid in some hospitals and care homes.

Without acting firmly, the new strain could lead to the NHS being overwhelmed and more people dying from the virus, she said.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. (Photo by Andrew Milligan - Pool/Getty Images)

Edinburgh reacts to news that Scotland’s Christmas relaxation will be abandoned

Edinburgh Evening News readers have reacted strongly to the news that the Scottish Government will abandon its planned relaxation of restrictions over Christmas.

Read more here by Conor Marlborough 

Sturgeon reminds Scots the travel ban is LAW during her briefing

The FM said the travel restrictions ‘are not guidelines, they are law.'

Level 4 restrictions will come into place from Boxing Day. 

'The law will say that throughout this period it is not permitted to travel from Scotland to the rest of the UK or vice versa," she added.

£135m a week hit for shops under new lockdown, according to Scottish Retail Consortium

Scotland’s new Level 4 restrictions will see the closure of ‘non-essential’ shops in mainland Scotland for three weeks from the start of Boxing Day.

These businesses were shuttered for 14 weeks in the Spring to help the fight against the pandemic, and shuttered 16 weeks for those within shopping centres and malls. In November and December non-essential shops in west central Scotland were shuttered for a further three weeks, only re-opening on 11 December.

SRC estimates the closure of these shops across mainland Scotland could see them lose out on around £135 million per week in lost revenue whilst they are closed. 

SRC data shows that over recent months non-food stores are consistently trading about a fifth down on last year.

Labour leader Richard Leonard responds to Nicola Sturgeon’s latest restrictions

He said the Scottish government needs to make decisions based on public health advice and ‘solid evidence,'

‘To win public confidence behind this significant tightening of restrictions requires persuasive evidence to be published, transparency and openness, and a substantial rise in testing, otherwise not only will there be disappointment there will be a heightened risk of non-compliance,’ he said. 

Scotland police chief comments on latest news of national lockdown

Assistant Chief Constable Alan Speirs said: “I fully understand that people will be disappointed with the tightening of restrictions, particularly at this time of year.

“The vast majority of the public have been complying with the regulations and so the policing approach we adopted from the outset of the pandemic will not change.

“Our officers will continue to engage with the public, explain the legislation and guidance, and encourage compliance. We will use enforcement as a last resort where there is a clear breach of the legislation.

“The Chief Constable has called on people to take personal responsibility to do the right thing and remember the purpose of these measures is to aid the collective effort to save lives by preventing the virus from spreading.”

"We have been very clear that we will not be routinely stopping vehicles or setting up road blocks. However, officers may in the course of their duties come across people who are travelling from one local authority area to another.

“Where travel restrictions apply, officers will continue to use the common sense, discretion and excellent judgement that they have applied since the crisis began."

Recap of Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon’s unscheduled coronavirus conferences:

- A new strain of Covid-19 is spreading at a ‘sharp rate’ in England and Wales and is believed to transmit 70% more easily according to current research 

- A full lockdown is to be imposed for Scotland - Orkney, Shetland and Western Isles are exempt. It will begin on Boxing Day and last for three weeks

- Relaxing of rules for Christmas can now only happen on 25 December in Scotland, but people are urged to stay at home unless it is absolutely essential 

- A travel ban between Scotland and the rest of the UK is in place and police have been asked to strengthen enforcement 

- Boris Johnson confirmed Christmas plans ‘cannot go ahead’ as planned in England and people are urged to spend Christmas in their own household. 

- London and parts of England will go into Tier 4 from tomorrow

- Wales will go under full lockdown from tonight 

Scottish Conservative leader responds to FM’s latest move

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said:

“Families across Scotland will be devastated at these new measures, especially so close to Christmas.

“However, given the rapidly increasing spread of the virus across the UK, and until our scientists know more about the transmission of this new variant, it is understandable why these restrictions are necessary at this time.

“None of us want this, but these sacrifices will save lives.

“We would expect the Scottish Government to ensure a return to regional levels of restrictions as soon as it is safe to do so.”

Deputy First Minister John Swinney says decision to stagger pupil return ‘very difficult’

Why are the rules not being enforced immediately?

Nicola Sturgeon said the latest Level 4 lockdown measures for Scotland are not being enforced for another week because the country is not currently in a similar situation to Wales and England where cases are showing a ‘sharp rise.' 

She said the new action will be a ‘preventative’ measure to prevent further spread of the virus, particularly the new strain. 

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