Scotland enters post-Christmas blanket lockdown regime

Mainland Scotland has today entered a tough, new blanket Coronavirus lockdown with people being advised to "stay at home" for the next three weeks to drive down cases of the virus.

Pubs in Edinburgh's Grassmarket will be forced to close again
Pubs in Edinburgh's Grassmarket will be forced to close again

It comes after families were allowed 24 hours respite to get together on Christmas Day.

And Nicola Sturgeon has warned the latest restrictions could be further strengthened in a March-style lockdown amid growing concerns over the prevalence of the new variant of Covid-19. Figures last week revealed that it accounts for more than a third (38%) of cases north of the border.

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The latest Coronavirus figures yesterday showed that 1,165 positive cases had been recorded in the past 24 hours, down by 149 on the previous day. This accounts for 4.3% of all tests conducted which is within World health Organisation (WHO) guidelines.

The total number of cases recorded in Scotland now stands at 118,035.

The level four restrictions coming into force today mean that all bars, restaurants and non-essential shops will have to close. Only the islands, which all move to level 3, will escape the highest tier of restrictions.

The government has also announced it will narrow the definition of "essential retail" - forcing homeware shops and garden centres to close.

Guidance urging people to stay at home as much as possible may be put down in law. Blanket travel restrictions will also now apply between every council area in Scotland, with people barred from leaving their local area other than for essential reasons.

There are growing fears that the latest tranche of restrictions may see thousands of Scots businesses, particularly hospitality and retail, going to the wall as they miss out on vital new year trade.

Schools are to stay closed until 11 January, and most pupils will learn from home until at least 18 January, although the First Minister has said this situation will remain "under review".

And Scots have been warned that they could face a tougher regime of restrictions in the new year, with a review currently being undertaken by ministers into whether the current level four measures will be enough to contain the new strain of the virus, which studies suggest can spread up to 70% faster than previous variants.

A report published by the Office for National Statistics on Christmas Eve suggested the number of people with Covid in Scotland has dropped, but the new strain was responsible for 38% of positive cases.

The current rate of new cases in Scotland does remain "significantly lower than in other parts of the UK, but fears over the impact of the new variant prompted Ms Sturgeon to impose the strict post-Christmas regime of blanket restrictions in a bid to keep the situation under control.

In her Christmas message, the first minister thanked the emergency services and armed forces who were working, mentioning health and care workers in particular for their efforts over the last year.

She urged people to continue "keeping a distance", acknowledging the difficulties faced by those who will spend Christmas alone.

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