Nicola Sturgeon: 'No return to normality' for central Scotland after Covid restrictions expire
Nicola Sturgeon has warned there will be no "return to normality" after the current coronavirus restrictions across central Scotland expire.
The First Minister said the "tiered" approach currently being devised for Scotland would replace the current "temporary" restrictions, which are due to expire on 26 October.
These include the fortnight-long closure of pubs and restaurants in central Scotland.
"It is important to stress as I believe everyone already understands this point, that given the ongoing challenge of Covid, that will not herald a return to complete normality," MS Sturgeon told MSPs today.
"The restrictions on household gathering, for example, remain in place until it is considered safe to ease them.
"More generally we intend to replace the temporary restrictions with a new strategic approach to managing the pandemic."
This will see different tiers or levels of alert for different areas "which may be applied in future or locally across Scotland depending on how the virus is spreading”.
The existing restrictions mean as well as pubs and restaurants having closed across central Scotland, outwith this area, pubs and restaurants can remain open until 6pm - but have been banned from serving alcohol.
"When we publish this new framework, which will then of course be subject to debate and decision by Parliament, we will indicate, based on the latest advice from the national incident management team and from our clinical advisors, what level of intervention should apply to each part of the country when the temporary restrictions end on 26 October," Ms Sturgeon said.
Ms Sturgeon has already hinted that the tiered approach in Scotland could be stricter than that unveiled by Boris Johnson in England this week. Down south, every area is classified as being on medium, high or very high alert. But the UK's chief medical officer Chris Whitty has already hinted that even the tier 3 restrictions may not be sufficient to halt the spread of the virus.
The Scottish approach could see a tougher package of measures at the highest level 3, or even a fourth tier of heightened measures.
The First Minister added: "The tiered approach to intervention will clearly be a central part of the new strategic approach framework.
"However, I want to stress that the framework will go beyond that. It will also seek to strengthen and improve effectiveness of measures which we currently have in place, to strengthen our resilience to live with this virus for the period ahead."
This will include measures to improve compliance, particularly around rules on meeting up amid concerns that too many Scots are not adhering on the ban on entering other households or the "rule of six."
There will also be a “particular focus” on asking people to self-isolate when they are asked to do so by public health authorities, as well as setting out support for people on low incomes who face face an “especially harsh” impact from Covid restrictions.
Opposition party leaders have now been invited to take parts in talks with Ms Sturgeon which will set out how the new strategic approach will operate, along Health Secretary Jeane Freeman and Government scientific advisers.
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