Nicola Sturgeon announces new strategic approach to COVID-19 restrictions
Nicola Sturgeon has said that the Scottish Government will introduce a new “strategic approach” to managing the COVID-19 pandemic.
The new approach will replace temporary restrictions with a nation-wide framework similar to the three-tiered system that came in place across England this week, she said.
The First Minister also confirmed that the Scottish Government is considering introducing travel restrictions similar to those introduced in Wales, banning travel from regions of the UK with a higher rate of COVID-19 infection.
Sturgeon warned that there would be no return to normality after the existing restrictions expire on 26 October.
She added that the Scottish Government “cannot rule out having to go further in the future”.
She told MSPs that she believes a new approach to introducing restrictions will “strengthen and improve the effectiveness of measures which we currently have in place to strengthen our resilience to live with this virus for the period ahead”.
Measures will include a three-tiered alert system to apply to different parts of Scotland depending on the levels of coronavirus in the community.
But she said the strategy will “go beyond” this to also include information on the enforcement of certain rules as well as details on the levels of support the government plans to give to businesses and people adversely affected by tightening restrictions.
She also told MSPs that the new framework will involve greater parliamentary scrutiny, with opposition parties included in some briefings and parliament given more opportunities to scrutinise restrictions before they come into place.
Sturgeon said: “A global pandemic or an infectious virus will often require emergency action and quick legislation.
“But as we prepare to live with COVID for an extended period, we recognise that this imperative must be balanced by the need for robust and whenever possible, pre-emptive parliamentary scrutiny.
“We therefore intend to work across the chamber and across wider society to ensure that we get this balance right in the weeks and months ahead.”
Sturgeon also confirmed that as of Friday face coverings will have to be worn in communal work areas such as canteens.
But couples who are getting married will be allowed to remove their masks during their ceremony from Friday onwards.
Sturgeon said: “We introduced restrictions on household meetings three weeks ago, together with very tough additional restrictions last week.
“However, the most recent of those changes, in particular, will not yet be having an impact on case numbers.
“And there is no doubt that we are currently in a precarious position.
“That explains why I can confirm to the parliament that all of our existing COVID restrictions will remain in place.”
Regarding travel during this time, Sturgeon continued: “People living in any of the central Scotland health board areas under tighter restrictions should not travel outside their own area unless they really need to - and people in other parts of Scotland should not travel to these areas unless absolutely necessary.
“Please avoid travel to other parts of the UK considered high risk areas. We specifically ask people not to go on trips to Blackpool unless necessary – there are now 286 infection cases in Scotland associated with Blackpool.
“These restrictions are hard – for individuals and businesses – but they are essential.”