New five-tier coronavirus strategy unveiled by Scottish Government
The Scottish Government has published the new five-tier strategic document governing public health restrictions to tackle coronavirus over the coming months.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said the strategy was published “with an open mind”, with stakeholders including opposition parties and local government invited to give their view.
MSPs are set to debate and vote on the document in a three-hour debate on Tuesday.
The tiers covering each part of the country will be decided after parliamentary approval, meaning MSPs will vote on the strategy before knowing which restrictions the area they represent will be under.
The new strategy will come into force from Monday 2 November, with levels to be reviewed on a weekly basis.
The five levels are:
- Level 0 – the lowest level will see the fewest restrictions possible to allow life to get as close to normal as possible. It is similar to the situation in August.
- Level 1 – some further restrictions introduced, but a “reasonable degree of normality overall”. It is similar to restrictions in place in mid-September.
- Level 2 – extra restrictions when transmission is “high and rising”. The restrictions currently in place outside of the Central Belt – no gatherings inside homes and limits on hospitality – would fall under this level.
- Level 3 – closest to the restrictions currently in place in the Central Belt, where much of hospitality is closed.
- Level 4 – the highest level of restrictions, closer to the lockdown introduced in August.
The intention is for schools to remain open regardless of the level of the local area.
Sturgeon said: “Although the framework we’re publishing today is new, the principles behind it will be familiar to all of you. It’s trying to balance different types of harm.
“It seeks to tackle the very direct and real harms to health and life caused by COVID, but it also recognises the wider health harms if our NHS is overwhelmed by COVID, the social harms caused by lockdown restrictions such as increased isolation and inequality, and of course the economic harm suffered by businesses and workers across the country which in turn causes physical and mental health problems.
“None of these issues can be viewed in isolation. We must strike the best balances we can, in the interests of minimising the overall harm that the pandemic is causing not just in Scotland, but in countries across the world.
“It is important to stress this fact: if we allow the virus to run out of control, all of the other harms I have talked about will be exacerbated.”
The Scottish Government has also set out the plan to increase testing capacity to 65,000 per day by the end of the year.
The First Minister said the “top priority” was continuing to test those with COVID symptoms, but the government will also look to introduce regular testing of designated visitors to care homes, NHS staff who visit care homes, care at home workers and to anyone admitted to hospital in an emergency.
Asymptomatic testing is also set to increase for surveillance purposes and to manage outbreaks.
Sturgeon also confirmed grants of up to £3,000 will be available for businesses required to close due to new restrictions for every four weeks they are closed, while businesses than cannot trade normally due to restrictions will be eligible for grants of up to £2,100.
However, she warned the cash available to the Scottish Government to pay these grants was “finite” and urged the UK Government to commit to ensuring extra cash for businesses in England announced yesterday will also be made available to firms in Scotland.
“Not a single penny of extra funding – beyond that already allocated – has been guaranteed for Scotland as a result of yesterday’s announcement,” she said, adding: “Without a resolution to the problem I have just highlighted, the money the Scottish Government has to pay for these grants will eventually run out.”