Fife, Angus and Perth and Kinross Council areas will move into level three coronavirus restrictions this Friday, after a dramatic increase in cases.
In Fife projections show intensive care unit capacity could be exceeded if stricter measures were not introduced.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the most recent data showed, in the space of a week, the seven-day number of cases per 100,000 of the population had increased in Perth and Kinross by 32%, in Fife by 40% and in Angus by 47%.
Proximity to Dundee, which is already in level three measures and will remain so, was also seen as a “relevant factor” in moving all three areas into the third tier.
Advice published by the Scottish Government said the increase in restrictions in Angus, Fife and Perth and Kinross “reflects a concern that level two restrictions are not sufficient to suppress transmission… and that pre-emptive action is needed to prevent further deterioration”.
The advice added: “In Fife, there is an imminent threat of exceeding NHS ICU capacity and in Perth and Kinross there is an increasing trend in case rates.”
Swathes of the country, from as far north as the Spittal of Glenshee to Ballantrae in South Ayrshire, are now under level three measures.
What it means
Pubs and restaurants in Angus, Fife and Perth and Kinross will be prohibited from selling alcohol and will close at 6pm, with last entry at 5pm.
Indoor exercise will be limited to individual workouts, with outdoor contact sports for those over the age of 18 banned, except professional sports.
No other local authority areas will change tiers this week but Ms Sturgeon said moves to level four for some “cannot be ruled out” in the near future.
Hope to prevent further ‘deterioration’
Ms Sturgeon said: “The most recent data shows that, in the space of a week, the seven-day number of cases per 100,000 of the population has increased in Perth and Kinross by 32%, in Fife by 40% and in Angus by 47%.
“The advice of the chief medical officer and national clinical director is that level two restrictions may not be sufficient to slow down and reverse increases of this magnitude and, as a result, an early move to level three was strongly recommended.
“I know this will be disappointing to residents and businesses in these areas.
“However, by acting now we can hopefully prevent an even more serious deterioration in the situation in the future.”
Cause for Fife rise ‘unknown’
Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie asked Ms Sturgeon what Fife had “done wrong” to be placed under the firmer restrictions.
The North Fife MSP said: “It is disappointing that the virus is spreading fast in Fife and that it has become necessary to put in further measures here, taking it up to level three.
“It is disappointing that the first minister was unable to tell me about the cause of the spread here. In previous months, and for other areas of Scotland, the first minister was able to identify the cause of the spread, such as pubs and indoor social gathering.
“The testing and tracing team don’t seem to have that information for Fife. That is important as we need to understand what has gone wrong.
“It is also disappointing that the government did not use the time we had in the summer better to get on top of the virus, to stop it rising with massive increases in testing and with much faster tracing — hunting it down to wipe it out.
“What we must do now is to focus on getting on top of the virus now, preparing to make sure it doesn’t increase any further, with further restrictions but also with measures for testing and tracing so this does not happen again.”
Body blow to Perth and Kinross economy
Perth-based Scottish Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser called the move: “A serious blow to local hospitality businesses in particular.
“The Scottish Government must now step up and use additional £1.7 billion in funding from UK Government announced over last month to prevent a health crisis becoming a jobs catastrophe.”
Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Alexander Stewart said: “This afternoon’s announcement by the first minister in the chamber was extremely disappointing to hear.
“The level three decision will be a body blow to local business and will put a real strain on our community’s organisations, as well as nearly every resident and individual across the area.”
‘Disappointing’ for Dundee
Shona Robison, MSP for Dundee City East, said: “While it’s disappointing that Dundee remains in level three, I am encouraged that today’s data shows that cases and test positivity in Dundee have declined and that the action we are taking is suppressing the spread of the virus
“I want to thank the people of Dundee for their continued support and I hope that the figures showing a decline in cases are reassuring in showing the actions they are taking are working and that by continuing to follow the guidance we can suppress the virus further with the aim of seeing the current level of restrictions lifted.”
Vaccine offers small glimmer of hope
Ms Sturgeon confirmed the Scottish Government had purchased at least 20 large “fridges” capable of storing the vaccine.
She said the news was “the best” she had been able to deliver since the beginning of the pandemic, with the inoculation improving the chances being able “to come out the other side by spring”.
Scottish Conservative Holyrood leader Ruth Davidson said: “News of this vaccine is promising and while it’s still early days, we need to ensure we have a fully-fledged delivery programme ready to deploy in every part of the country.
“We can’t afford to leave this to the last minute and encounter the significant and chronic problems that have affected the flu vaccine rollout this year.
“We need to hear answers from the government as soon as possible about how, where, when and to whom this vaccine will be made available.
“This is the time to accelerate planning efforts and set out a clear vaccine delivery strategy that ensures this potential game-changer can be administered fairly and equitably across the country.”