Aberdeenshire politicians and businesses have expressed relief at being spared tougher lockdown sanctions after enduring days of worry.
But the authority’s leader warned that unless infection rates drop, the confirmation from the Scottish Government that Aberdeenshire will remain in tier 2 could just be a “stay of execution”.
If the region were to go into tier 3, pubs, restaurants and cafes would need to shut by 6pm, and no alcohol sales at those venues would be permitted unless as take-away.
By keeping Aberdeenshire a tier 2 area, hospitality businesses can serve alcohol inside with a main meal, and remain open indoors until 8pm.
Sam Masson, manager of The Captain’s Table family seafood restaurant in Fraserburgh, said the news gave her a “glimmer of hope” after previously raising concerns that a shift would prove “crushing” to traders.
She said: “Staying in tier 2 might only be a little thing to a lot of people, but to us it meant the world.
“I just feel so relieved. It’s still a struggle, but it’s one less thing for us to worry about.
“It’s taken a lot of stress and pressure off us when we needed it the most. It’s really given us a glimmer of hope.”
Marc Dawson, owner of the Creel Inn in Catterline, said: “It’s still not good as I’d prefer to be in tier 1, but it’s better than what we were expecting.
“If we went into tier 3, I think we would probably have been closing the restaurant for the duration of the restrictions.”
Ahead of the announcements by the first minister, Aberdeenshire Council leader Jim Gifford said he fully expected the authority would be put up a tier to level three.
Mr Gifford said: “It is great news that we are staying in level two, given that every indication that we had, as late as Monday evening, was that we were likely to be moving into three.
“Everyone in Aberdeenshire will be very relieved not to have additional restrictions placed on them.
“We have clearly had a bit of flexibility applied to the health advice, which is very welcome but this must serve as a wake-up call that if we don’t see our infection numbers improving, then all we have had is a stay of execution on a move to level three.
“Our message continues to be the same as for the last many, many months – stay safe.
“Use masks, wash your hands, and observe social distancing.
“If we all continue to follow the basic rules, then we will hopefully avoid these difficult decision days again.”
Councillor Gwyneth Petrie, leader of the SNP group on Aberdeenshire Council added: “‘It will be a relief to many that we are not moving to tier 3 this week – however, this decision must come with a caveat.
“In order to ensure we aren’t just delaying a move to a higher tier, we must do what we can to see a drop in case numbers.”
According to Public Health Scotland data, the seven-day positive rate per 100,000 of the population in Aberdeenshire yesterday was 57.8.
On November 1, that figure stood at just 21.4.