Tier four restrictions may not go far enough to suppress virus, warns Sturgeon
The First Minister has said that the new level four restrictions which come into force across Scotland from Boxing Day may not be enough to suppress the spread of the virus.
Nicola Sturgeon warned that the Scottish Government may need to “consider whether there is a need to strengthen level four restrictions any further” as more evidence become available.
Addressing parliament on the new measures that will come into place this week – which she first outlined on Saturday – Sturgeon said: “It seems that we are facing a virus that spreads much faster now than in March, so we need to consider whether the current level four restrictions will be sufficient to suppress it.”
From Saturday, all of mainland Scotland will be place in tier four, meaning the closure of all hospitality except takeaways, and all non-essential shops including garden centres and homeware stores. Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles will be placed in tier three.
All schools and nurseries will be closed until at least 18 January, although pupils will start online learning from 11 January.
The First Minister said it was, and has always been, the government’s priority to keep schools open where possible.
She said: “At this stage, our intention is that schools will get back to normal from 18 January, but we will require to keep this under review.”
The new variant of the virus which has taken hold in London and the south east of England is said to be up to 70 per cent more transmissible than before, and could increase the R number – currently sitting at around one in Scotland – by 0.4.
Sturgeon said that it because of this that Scotland is taking the tough precautionary measures announced on Saturday.
“The very rapid spread in London and the south east serves as a warning of what we will face here if we do not take firm action to suppress the virus,” she said.
“We have a real concern that, without significant counter measures, we could be facing another period of exponential growth as we enter the new year.”
She added that the new measures were not simply a “response” to the current levels in Scotland, but “necessary precautionary measures to avoid a significant deterioration in our situation, caused by this new strain, over the next few weeks.”
The total number of positive cases reported yesterday in Scotland was 1,316, representing 7.5 per cent of all tests carried out.
Sixty people are currently in intensive care, while 1,045 people who tested positive are in hospital.
In the past 24 hours, a further 43 deaths were registered.
The First Minister reiterated the travel ban between Scotland and the rest of the UK and urged families in Scotland who plan to meet up on Christmas Day not to do so indoors.
She thanked the public for their sacrifices throughout the year, adding: “For the moment, let’s remember that the best gift we can give this Christmas to those we love is to keep them safe.”