Scotland will go into a full lockdown from midnight on Monday for the entirety of January as the coronavirus spirals further out of control, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
In an emergency statement to Holyrood, the first minister announced that all Scottish schools would remain closed throughout January and shift to online learning because of the threat posed by the new Covid-19 variant, B117.
New “stay at home” rules will mirror the very strict restrictions imposed in March, and will be legally enforced – meaning significant curbs will be placed on who is able to travel.
Scotland has not witnessed the sharp spike in Covid patients hospitalised – as seen in England in the past weeks – but the number of positive cases has risen each day, hitting 2,464 on Sunday.
A further 1,905 people tested positive for Covid-19 on Monday – comprising 15 per cent of the total tests carried out.
“The fundamental advice for everyone is to stay at home,” Sturgeon said, adding that the Scottish government had not taken the decision to pursue more action “lightly” – and that there was a “real risk of the NHS being overwhelmed”.
From tomorrow, she explained, a maximum of two people from two households will be allowed to meet outdoors. Places of worship will close, and people will only be allowed to leave home if they have a reasonable excuse – such as exercise or shopping for essentials.
New guidance will be issued for people who have to shield, and non-essential travel into and out of Scotland will not be allowed, Sturgeon said.
The first minister told MSPs that the approval of two vaccines was “hugely positive and offers us a way out of this pandemic”, but conceded that the new, faster-spreading variant – which is believed to be up to 70 per cent more infectious – was a “massive blow”.
“Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that I am more concerned about the situation we face now than I have been at any time since March last year,” Sturgeon said.
She added: “As government, our clear duty right now is to act to save lives and protect the NHS. We know that delay or prevarication in the face of this virus almost always makes things worse not better – even if it stems from an understandable desire to wait for more data or evidence.”