Nicola Sturgeon: Circuit breaker may see travel curbs and pub restrictions

Nicola Sturgeon has warned that fresh restrictions on travel and pubs in Scotland may be part of a "circuit breaker" lockdown being considered this month to coincide with the school holidays.

Monday, 5th October 2020, 4:45 pm
Updated Monday, 5th October 2020, 6:31 pm
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at today's coronavirus briefing
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at today's coronavirus briefing

The First Minister warned that Scotland is now facing a "rising tide" of coronavirus cases after it emerged there were 697 new cases over the past 24 hours. No new deaths have been reported.

But infection rates are now spreading to older Scots who are more at risk, after having been previously concentrated in younger groups who are more likely to shake off the virus.

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How would a 'circuit breaker' lockdown work for Scotland?
Nicola Sturgeon First Minister is considering a "circuit breaker" lockdown

Any potential measures will be discussed by a meeting of the Scottish Cabinet tomorrow. Ms Sturgeon hinted that a statement could be made in Holyrood this week, possibly as early as tomorrow.

The SNP leader said today she would also be looking at the prospect of regional lockdowns during talks with clinical advisors. These talks will assess what additional measures should be put in place to slow down the second wave of Covid-19, which has been gradually escalating since the reopening of shops, workplaces and hospitality in July.

"What we're looking at are what further restrictions may be necessary to get the virus back under control," she said.

"That could be a number of different things, but equally it could well be that a number of different things are not included and it's not something that's anything like the lockdown that we had in March."

The First Minister will take advice after meeting with key scientific advisors today, including Chief Medical Officer Gregor Smith and national Clinical director Jason Leitch.

She will also hold a "four nations" call with UK cabinet office minister Michael Gove and representatives of the other devolved administrations today.

The SNP leader said a regional approach to restrictions would be considered, as the bulk of cases are currently in the Central Belt. But she warned that infection levels were increasing in "pretty much every part of the country".

"We have cases in every mainland health board area and over the past few days we've also seen cases in the Western Isles, last week we had cases in Shetland,” Ms Sturgeon said.

"There is a rising tide of infection across the country, albeit it is higher in some parts than in others and part of our consideration of restrictions also requires to take account not just reacting to a problem that is already there, but also are we wiser to take preventative action in areas where it might not look as if there is as big a problem right now, but if you act you can stop that problem developing?"

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford has hinted that he could introduce quarantine measures for people entering Wales from high risk areas of England.

Ms Sturgeon admitted that travel would be one of the areas looked at as part of new Scottish restrictions.

"Travel will be, both within Scotland and from Scotland to other places, part of our consideration of whether additional measures might be required of that nature," Ms Sturgeon added.

Scots will be given "as much notice as possible" to any new measures being introduced, the First Minister said, but it has been widely expected they would coincide with the October school break, which starts next week in most areas.

"I would certainly hope that we would give at least a couple of days notice of any restrictions that would kick in," she said.

"We want to keep schools open - schools are about to go into the October holiday period.

"There's also an opportunity over the next few weeks - two to three weeks in October when not all schools are off at exactly the same time, but there will be periods when most schools are off.

"That will perhaps give an opportunity to try to reduce some of the transmission risks that we face - not in schools because we believe schools are safe - but goals roundabout schools. So that's all part of the consideration and the decision-making process that we're engaged in just now."

The key rise in recent weeks have been through household interaction and widespread outbreaks among the student population after their return to campuses.

Pubs and hospitality have also been seen as a key factor in pushing up cases after venues reopened.

A 10pm closing curfew has recently been imposed on pubs to address this, but hospitality is an area where the Government "may have to go further" to tackle the second wave, Ms Sturgeon hinted.

But there is also growing unease among opposition MSPs about the prospect of the Scottish Parliament being bypassed over plans for a circuit breaker lockdown.

Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has called for a cross-party briefing with party leaders on justification for the measures.

“The Scottish Parliament must not be bounced into supporting a circuit breaker lockdown without ministers explaining what it will achieve, how long it will last and why it’s justified, " he said.

“There is therefore absolutely zero justification for rushed implementation."

The First Minister said: "As we go much further into this, everybody accepts and wants to see a greater degree of Parliamentary involvement and scrutiny, with the caveat that governments in a situation like this always have to reserve the right to act very quickly if the judgement is health and life might depend on it."

Ms Sturgeon said she would hope any "circuit breaker" measures went before MSPs this week to give "Parliament an input into that decision”.

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