MSPs back new five-tier coronavirus strategy
MSPs have backed the new five-tier strategy for managing coronavirus over winter.
It will see the new system come into force from Monday, with the different council areas of Scotland to be put under different levels of public health restrictions.
The level each local authority will be placed in will be announced on Thursday, though is it expected central belt areas currently under the toughest restrictions will be placed in level three while much of the rest of the country will be level two.
However, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon signaled the Highlands, Orkney, Shetland, the Western Isles and Moray may go straight into level one owing to lower levels of transmission, while the “escalating situation” in Dundee means it could be moved to level three.
Levels one to three of the new strategy broadly align with those already in place in England. A level zero is also an option for areas where the virus has been suppressed, while level four could see parts of the country go back into lockdown.
However, Sturgeon confirmed some changes to the framework to the proposal published last week.
Meeting others inside households is to remain prohibited, even for those areas in level one, for the time being. This precaution will be reviewed weekly.
And hospitality will face lighter restrictions than originally suggested. Premises in areas under level two will be able to open until 8pm and can serve alcohol with main meals, while all cafes, pubs and restaurants in level three will be able to open until 6pm for food and non-alcoholic drinks.
Sturgeon said: “For all of Scotland, our aim is to get to level one and then to level zero of the framework as quickly as possible.
“We know that that is possible because, over the summer, we got to the very low levels of transmission that would be needed for that. If we can do it once, we can do it again, but it will not be easy. It will take action from the government to support the wider efforts.
“That is why our strategic approach does not simply set out restrictions, it also explains how we will expand testing and the steps that we will take to better support people to comply with the rules, especially on self-isolation.”
A Conservative amendment calling for a business advisory group to be established was defeated. Speaking in the debate, Scottish Conservative leader in Holyrood Ruth Davidson said: “The past six months have been horrendous for small businesses across Scotland—probably the hardest they have ever faced, even considering the years following the financial crash of 2008. We are not talking about big multinationals but about family-owned firms that are fighting to maintain local jobs in their areas.
“They are contending with what might be necessary restrictions, but they have no part to play in the process of drawing them up. They need to be on the inside, helping to mould a framework of regulation that supports firms and jobs, rather than being simply the recipients of restrictions that are handed down by ministers.”
Meanwhile a Labour amendment calling for more financial support for people and businesses was also defeated. Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: “The emotional strength, the effort, the endeavour especially of those key workers who have worked on for month after month with no break, not in the name of anything other than in the name of common humanity.
“But many working people are now facing the grim prospect of unemployment and joblessness in the lead up to Christmas.
“That's why we have said that the workers as well as the businesses impacted by these new restrictions must be compensated. That they should not be a victim in a struggle between two governments."
The Green and Lib Dem amendments on asymptomatic testing were agreed.