There will be changes to the school term and which shops are classed as essential.
The First Minister has given her final lockdown review of 2020 today, which follows her announcement of Scotland moving into the highest level of restrictions, Level Four, from 26 December. The decision to move to Level Four and make some changes to the restrictions comes as Covid-19 is still circulating in Scotland at a higher level than would be wished.
Nicola Sturgeon said: “However, after a sustained period of decline, our case numbers are now more volatile, and have risen by around 15% in the last couple of weeks.” Due to this rise in cases and the science published regarding a new strain of coronavirus found in the UK, the minister announced that the majority of Scotland will move to Level Four for a period of three weeks.
Orkney, Shetland, the Western Isles and the other relatively remote islands, currently in Level One, will however move to Level Three from one minute past midnight on Boxing Day. The review on the level system and the latest restrictions are expected to take place after two weeks.
The First Minister told Holyrood today that level four restrictions may have to be tightened, and changes will perhaps turn out to resemble those of the first lockdown in March. She announced that garden centres, home-ware and furniture shops will be forced to close as these will be now be classed as non-essential retail, but can remain open for click-and-collect services.
As well as confirming the move to Level Four for Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon announced that there will be a delay to the school term restarting next month. Children of key workers and those considered vulnerable will be able to return to school on January 5, however all other pupils will start back on January 11, but at least the first week of school lessons will take place online.
In level three and level four, the law currently prohibits non-essential travel outside your own local authority area however, for those living in level four areas, the strong advice is to stay as local as possible and at home as much as possible. The First Minister also said that the government is considering if that advice should be made law, and are considering whether there is a need to strengthen level four restrictions any further.
In addition, the First Minister said a letter from the Chief Medical Officer will be sent to those on the shielding list and will act as a fit note, which will allow those shielding to claim statutory sick pay. Employers will need to put measures in place to keep them safe if the person cannot work from home.
Speaking about the new, faster spreading variant of Covid-19, Nicola Sturgeon said there was a “significant degree of confidence” among experts that increases the R number – the average number of people infected by each person with the virus – by as much as 0.4. She added: “Given that the R number in Scotland is already around 1, this is obviously a very real concern.”
The First Minister said analysis suggested that in the week beginning December 9 around 14% of positive coronavirus cases in Scotland already had a gene linked to this new strain – adding it was “not unreasonable to assume that the proportion may be higher now”. She stressed that this was “still a significantly lower level than England, where it is thought that the new variant accounts for 36% of cases, and will be even higher in London and the South East”.
Here is a recap of the Level Four restrictions:
So what can I do?
• Go to school, college or university. However, shielding children are not to go to school and colleges and universities will offer restricted blended learning.
• Visit a place of worship, however numbers are restricted to a maximum of 20 people.
• Go to work if you cannot work from home. Essential workplaces (e.g. Critical National Infrastructure), outdoor workplaces, construction and manufacturing can remain open.
• Get deliveries and takeaways sent to your home.
• Visit essential shops, such as supermarkets and pharmacies.
• Attend medical visits.
• Exercise outdoors, either alone, with members of your household or with five other people from two other households following social distancing guidelines.
• Go to another household for essential worker informal childcare only. Permitted in line with household/numbers restrictions, and only children may enter other households.
• Children will be allowed to see both parents, if they are separated.
• Use public transport or travel into or out of the Level Four area for essential travel for work, education, shopping health etc; outdoor exercise; weddings and funerals; and transit through restricted areas.
• Attend a wedding or civil partnership, but there is a limit of 15 people.
• Attend a funeral or wake, but there is a limit of 20 people.
• Play outdoor non-contact sport only, however outdoor contact sport is permitted if a professional sportsperson.
• Stay in a hotel, B&B or other accommodation for work-related purposes.
What can’t I do?
• Go to work if it is possible to work from home.
• Visit non-essential shops, these include ones selling clothing, tobacco, footwear and electronics, as well as vehicle showrooms, travel agents, betting shops, auction houses, tailors, and vape shops.
• Visit restaurants, pubs and other hospitality venues (including but not limited to cinemas, theatres and museums).
• Visit salons, gyms, leisure centres, visitor attractions or public buildings such as libraries.
• Socialise with other households indoors.
• Socialise with more than six people from two other households outdoors and in public places like parks.
• Have a driving lesson.
• Use public transport or travel into or out of the Level Four area for non-essential purposes.
• Have a wedding reception.
• Play sport indoors and contact sport outdoors.
• Stay in a hotel, B&B or other accommodation for tourism purposes.
For more information regarding Scotland’s five-tier system, you can find their strategic framework document outlining the restrictions in detail here.