First Minister Nicola Sturgeon today announced Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire will remain in Level two.
Ms Sturgeon took to Holyrood for her weekly review of regional levels this afternoon and, despite speculation the north-east’s status would move up to three, the first minister said both local authorities would stay in level two.
The cabinet and government advisers met this morning to discuss potential changes to the restrictions.
A move to level three would completely halt the sale of alcohol in hospitality venues across the north-east, forcing venues to close at 6pm also.
It would also introduce travel bans, meaning people could not travel between the city and Aberdeenshire, except for a government-endorsed exception, such as for work or school.
Before proceeding with her review, Ms Sturgeon took a moment to discuss the first vaccines getting under way in Scotland, and described it as the “biggest vaccination programme in our history”.
She said: “This is a milestone we have all longed for, it offers hope at long last we may be at the beginning of the end of this pandemic.
“Today we should all allow ourselves a smile.
“But we must not drop our guard.”
On Level changes in Scotland
Five council areas in Scotland will see restrictions eased this week, which include Inverclyde, Falkirk and Angus.
These areas will move from Level three to Level two and Dumfries and Galloway and the Borders will move to Level one.
Ms Sturgeon said she could not “rule out” the north-east moving in Level three in the weeks ahead, as the Scottish Government continues to monitor the region’s outbreaks.
She added: “I said in last week’s statement we were looking closely at Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, following an increase in cases in both of those areas.
“In the last week, cases have fallen in both areas.
“Aberdeen has gone from new 89 cases per 100,000 to 74. Aberdeenshire’s case numbers, by the same measure, have decreased from 95 to 80.
“Case positivity in both areas has also fallen and is at – or slightly over – four per cent.
“For that reason, at this stage, we intend that both areas will remain at Level two.
“It is worth stressing that cases have not fallen in either area by as much that we would want to see and there is still evidence that the levels of infections are due to transmission in the community rather than solely being due to outbreaks in workplaces and care homes.
“We are, therefore, continuing to monitor the situation in both local authorities very carefully.
“I cannot rule out a move to Level three in both of these areas in the weeks ahead.”
Changes will come into force from Friday at 6pm, with non-essential retail allowed to reopen from 6am to control the flow of customers.
Moray, Highland, Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles will remain in Level one.
Ms Sturgeon said her message to all part of the country, to stay at the current Level or to move down further, is to “suppress the virus as effectively as possible”.
More on the vaccine
The first minister reminded the public that although vaccinations have started, “the end is not with us yet”.
She said: “For now, the virus and the risks it possesses to health and life, unfortunately, remain with indeed we can expect the inter period ahead to be especially tough
“As the vaccination programme rolls out across the county, the NHS will be coping with the impact of Covid and other winter pressures and of course, we may be dealing with any disruptions caused by Brexit – the terms of which unclear.
“So, we have no ground for complacency in the months ahead and we have every good reason still to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe.”
Ms Sturgeon said many will face choices in the weeks ahead on gathering indoors and outdoors, and how to celebrate Christmas.
She added: “So all of us must continue to think about how we keep ourselves and each other safe in the meantime.”