Eleven council areas moved into level four lockdown
Eleven Scottish council areas in central Scotland are to be moved into the highest level of coronavirus restrictions, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warning the infection rate remains “stubbornly and worryingly high”.
Pressure on hospitals in many areas could easily become “intolerable,” Sturgeon warned, and could prevent any easing of restrictions over the Christmas period.
The new restrictions will come into force on Friday and will last until at least 11 December.
City of Glasgow, Renfrewshire, East Renfrewshire, East Dunbartonshire, West Dunbartonshire, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire, East Ayrshire, South Ayrshire, Stirling and West Lothian are all to be placed under the strictest restrictions.
Only essential retail will remain open in these areas and people should avoid going out except for essential reasons, Sturgeon said.
Travel restrictions preventing people moving in and out of level three and level four areas will also become the law on Friday.
Schools will remain open across all parts of Scotland, but children who are in the shielding category are to stay at home and receive education remotely.
Adults previously in the shielding category are not expected to isolate to the same extent as in the previous period of full lockdown but Chief Medical Officer Gregor Smith is to send out more detailed advice on the implications of level four restrictions for those people.
Businesses under any level of restrictions that have been forced to close will be able to claim a four-weekly grant of between £2,000 and £3,000 depending on rateable value, Sturgeon said.
Businesses that remain open but that are facing trading restrictions can apply for smaller grants.
Additionally, Sturgeon announced a £30m business discretionary fund to be administered through local councils as well as an additional £15m to help the newly self-employed who have not been able to access other forms of support.
Councils will also be given a further £15m to help with with the social impact of a move to level four.
The latest coronavirus statistics show that 37 deaths had been recorded in the previous 24 hours.
The National Records of Scotland will release its weekly report on Wednesday, totalling the number deaths in the previous seven days.
Sturgeon noted that it is “very likely” the report will bring the total number of deaths from COVID-19 in Scotland to over 5,000.
Additionally, East Lothian and Midlothian will move down from level three to level two from 24 November.
Edinburgh, Clackmannanshire, Falkirk, Inverclyde, North Ayrshire, Dundee, Fife, Perth and Kinross and Angus will all remain at level three.
And Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, the Borders, Dumfries and Galloway, and Argyll and Bute will all remain at level two while Orkney, Shetland, the Western Isles, Moray and the Highlands will remain in level one.
Sturgeon said: “In the seven days up to Friday, Scotland as a whole had just over 140 new cases of COVID per 100,000 people. All of the areas moving to level four were above that level - ranging from West Lothian, with a rate of 158 cases per 100,000, to Glasgow with 277.
“We simply do not have the assurance we need that hospital and ICU services will be able to cope as we go deeper into winter. Pressure on hospitals in these areas - and on those who work in them - is already severe and with the additional pressure that the coming weeks may bring, it could easily become intolerable.
“At these levels we would not have the flexibility we need to ease restrictions over Christmas - which, in common with the other UK nations, we so desperately want to do.
“The clear advice of our public health experts is that we must drive infection rates down further in these areas. They are not confident that level three restrictions will do this to the extent necessary.
“That is why, albeit reluctantly, we have taken the decision to place these areas into level four for three weeks. I know people are frustrated that other restrictions have remained in place longer than planned but level four is intended to be short and sharp. And in this situation, it is specifically intended to have an impact in advance of Christmas and the most winter challenging period.
“Our objective in taking this action now is to protect the NHS, open the possibility of seeing some loved ones at Christmas and complete the journey to next spring with as few restrictions as possible and with the minimum impact on life and health.”