Household visits are to be banned across Scotland, pubs will close at 10pm and people are being advised against car sharing, as “tough” new anti-Covid restrictions were announced by Nicola Sturgeon.
The first minister said going to other households would not be legally permitted from Friday but urged people to stop visiting each other in their homes from Wednesday.
A curfew requiring pubs and restaurants to close at 10pm from Friday will be introduced bringing Scotland into line with Boris Johnson’s similar announcement for England.
In a statement to Holyrood, Ms Sturgeon said she was keeping a so-called “circuit-breaker” or short period of nationwide lockdown to coincide with the October school holidays, under review.
We have decided that from tomorrow, to be reviewed after three weeks and with exceptions that I will come on to, visiting other households will not be permitted.”
Ms Sturgeon urged people in Scotland not to book travel overseas for the October break “unless it is absolutely essential” and advised people against car sharing with those outside of their own household.
The measures were introduced as Scottish Covid cases rose by 383 in the past 24 hours, bringing the total of positive tests to 25,009 people. That represents 7.6% of newly tested individuals, up from 6.3% on Monday.
One new death of a confirmed patient has been recorded and the death toll under this measure is now at 2,506.
Household gatherings have been identified as one of the key ways that the virus is being transmitted. Therefore, the first minister took the decision to extend the guidance outlawing household gatherings currently in place in Glasgow and surrounding areas to the rest of Scotland.
“Difficult though it is, any serious effort to reduce the R number below one must take account of this key driver of transmission and seek to break it,” Ms Sturgeon said.
“So after careful consideration, we have decided that from tomorrow, to be reviewed after three weeks and with exceptions that I will come on to, visiting other households will not be permitted.
“The measures I am announcing today are tough – I am not going to pretend otherwise – but they do not represent a full-scale lockdown of the kind imposed in March.”
Those living alone will be able to form extended households, while couples not living together, those who need childcare and tradespeople will be exempt from the measures.
Rising number of cases among the elderly
Ms Sturgeon said she shared people’s “despair” that measures were being tightened again, but said the sacrifices being made were not in vain and had saved lives.
It kills too many old and vulnerable people. And for younger, healthier people, while the risks of dying from it are much lower – though not non-existent – it can still result in long-term, serious health problems.”
While the majority of new coronavirus cases in recent weeks are in those under the age of 40, Ms Sturgeon said a rise is now being seen in the older population.
The First Minister said: “It kills too many old and vulnerable people. And for younger, healthier people, while the risks of dying from it are much lower – though not non-existent – it can still result in long-term, serious health problems.
“That’s why action to bring it back under control is necessary – and to bring the R number down again, the action we take now must go beyond the step we announced almost two weeks ago to restrict indoor and outdoor gatherings to six people from two households.”
But North East Lib Dem MSP Mike Rumbles asked Ms Sturgeon if she understood that “forbidding people from visiting their families in other households like this will not hold for long”.
Mr Rumbles added: “For the state to say that you cannot see family at home but can meet in the pub is quite simply wrong.”
Ms Sturgeon said she disagreed, saying that Mr Rumbles is “probably on a different side of the debate” on dealing with Covid than she is.
The first minister said: “I suspect he is much more of the libertarian, just let people live normally and let it take its course. I think that would be disastrous. I think it is fundamentally wrong.”
Mr Rumbles objected to Ms Sturgeon’s comments, causing her to apologise to him saying that she had perhaps been a “bit intemperate” and didn’t mean to offend him.
Ms Sturgeon acknowledged it was a “difficult balance” to strike to protect people’s jobs “without the financial levers that would allow us to do more to mitigate that and try as far as possible to suppress the spread”.
Earlier in her statement, Ms Sturgeon had said pubs had remained open in order to protect jobs. But if the Scottish Government had the borrowing powers or the means to extend the Job Retention Scheme she might have reached a different conclusion.
Summary of new rules
- Visiting other homes is banned. The measure comes into force on Friday but Ms Sturgeon has asked people to follow the rule from Wednesday.
- There will be exceptions for those living alone or alone with children, who form extended households.
- This includes couples who do not live together, grandparents providing childcare, and tradespeople.
- Bars and restaurants will be required to close at 10pm from Friday. Ms Sturgeon said further restrictions, including possible closures, will be “unavoidable” if social distancing and other measures are not followed.
- The Scottish Government is advising against car sharing with other households.
- Holidaymakers are urged not to book travel overseas for the October break.
- Everyone who can work from home should work from home.
- The rule of six remains – people can meet up with a maximum of six people from one other household in public indoor places or outdoors.
- Outdoors, children under 12 are exempt from these rules and young people aged 12 to 18 will be exempt from the household limit.
- Indicative dates previously outlined for lockdown easing on October 5 – such as the return of fans to Scottish sports stadia – are “unlikely to go ahead” on that date.
- Vulnerable people are not being asked to return to shielding.
- Financial support of £500 will be made available for those on low incomes who have to self-isolate due to coronavirus.
- A so-called circuit breaker, or short period of nationwide lockdown, will be kept under review.