Scotland is bracing for a new round of coronavirus related lockdowns, following First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement on Monday that the country will join England in shutting down local businesses and prohibiting movement until the end of January.
Under the new lockdown rules, everyone in mainland Scotland must stay at home, except for essential purposes such as buying groceries and performing essential work.
The Scottish leader announced that schools and nurseries are to stay closed until February 1, rather than January 18 as originally planned, with students forced to attend virtual classes at home.
Sturgeon made her announcement to an emergency session of the Scottish parliament, following United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s resistance to calls for a total lockdown amid rising figures of coronavirus-related hospitalizations and deaths driven by a newly discovered variant of COVID-19.
Sturgeon said it was essential to act now to prevent the infection rate from soaring to levels currently seen in London and southeast England. The first minister noted that the curve of the pandemic in Scotland is approximately four weeks behind London.
“Our overriding duty now is to act quickly to save lives and protect the NHS,” she said. “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.”
Sturgeon said that the lockdown restrictions will apply to all of mainland Scotland, which is currently in tier 4, while the Isle of Skye will remain in tier 3 “for now.” The Scottish first minister said that the controls will be kept under review, but did not rule out extending the lockdowns beyond the end of January.
Under the restrictions, everyone in Scotland is required to stay at home and may only go outside for essential purposes such as grocery shopping, daily exercise and caring responsibilities. Those who leave the house are expected to “stay as close to home as possible and stay away from crowded places,” said Sturgeon. In addition, work will only be considered a legitimate reason to leave home if it cannot be done from home.
Sturgeon asked Scottish business owners to “look again at their operations and to make sure every function that can be done by people working at home is being done in that way.” Sturgeon added that those who need protection due to underlying health conditions are not to go into work at all and says that the government’s guidance would act as a valid “fit note,” authorising absence from work.
At the moment, no one is allowed to travel into or out of Scotland except for essential purposes. Separate restrictions will also be coming into effect on Friday that will close all places of worship for all purposes except for broadcasting services or conducting a funeral, wedding, or civil partnership. Only up to five people will be able to attend weddings and civil partnerships, and up to 20 people will be allowed to attend funerals.
“I’m sorry to ask for further sacrifices, after nine long months of them. But these sacrifices are necessary,” Sturgeon said. “And the difference between now and last March is that with the help of vaccines, we now have confidence that they will pave the way to brighter days ahead. So – for everyone’s sake and safety – please stick with it and stay home.”
“Stay home. Save lives. Protect the NHS,” Sturgeon concluded.