No changes to COVID restriction levels
No changes have been made to COVID restrictions levels for this week, the First Minister has confirmed.
But Nicola Sturgeon said next week’s update is likely to be more “substantial” given the level four restrictions on 11 council areas will be lifted on Friday 11 December.
The levels these areas will go into from 6pm next Friday will be announced next Tuesday.
Nicola Sturgeon also said consideration was being given to the restrictions in place in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire following a rise in cases across NHS Grampian.
These two council areas are currently in level two but could be moved to level three after a more thorough analysis of data is undertaken. This could be announced before next Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Dumfries and Galloway could move to level two shortly, but Sturgeon expressed concern that the region is bordered by areas with significantly higher levels of infection.
Sturgeon said: “The sacrifices everyone is making are making a difference. They are getting case numbers down, reducing the numbers getting ill and needing hospital care and so protecting the NHS, and saving lives.
“That said, the level of the virus overall – and this is particularly the case in some parts of the country – is still higher than we need it to be.
“There are still pressures on the health service – and any increase in rates of infection would intensify those.
“As we go into the deeper winter period, there are a number of factors that may well push transmission up again. And so we could see cases and resulting illness and deaths start to rise again. That means we have an interest in driving cases as low as we can now. And that necessitates continued caution.
“In summary, therefore, although we are encouraged by the impact current restrictions have had, the need to strengthen and solidify that progress means that we need to continue to take care and err on the side of caution.
“So, for all these reasons, the Cabinet has concluded that we will not make any changes to the levels this week.”
In response to a question from Scottish Conservative Holyrood leader Ruth Davidson about a possible extension to school Christmas breaks, Sturgeon said she hoped a decision would be made this week.
Reports have suggested schools could close earlier this month and go back later in January in a bid to reduce transmission rates.
The First Minister also reiterated the government’s intention to administer the first vaccines before Christmas. She said: “We remain hopeful that even before Christmas, we will be able to start vaccinating people in Scotland against COVID.
“The Cabinet reviewed the plans for vaccination this morning. And I can confirm that we are ready to begin that process as soon we receive the first supplies of vaccine.”