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Scotland’s new five-tier system of coronavirus restrictions is the country’s best chance of avoiding another full-scale national lockdown, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
The First Minister made the claim as revealed the measures that Scots will be living under from 6am on Monday when the new rules come into force.
They range from Levels 0-4, with the highest level, which includes restrictions similar to the full lockdown in March, only to be used if “absolutely necessary”.
People living in Level 3 or Level 4 areas should not travel outside the local authority area they live in under the new system.
Ms Sturgeon warned: “If people don’t abide by the travel advice, the virus will spread from high to lower prevalence areas and a differentiated approach will become unsustainable.
“In these circumstances, we would have to return to national restrictions.”
Level 4 restrictions – which no areas will be placed in on Monday and the First Minister insisted will only be applied if absolutely necessary – will force the closure of non-essential shops as well as gyms, libraries and hairdressers.
Bars and restaurants, which are currently closed in central Scotland, will also not be allowed to operate under these conditions, while cafes will also have to shut.
In contrast, Level 0 – the lowest level, which no areas have been placed in as yet – allows hospitality to operate under normal licensing times, while up to eight people from three households can meet inside and 15 people from five households can get together outdoors.
While the North and South Lanarkshire Council areas had been under consideration for the very toughest restrictions in Level 4, Ms Sturgeon announced they will instead go into Level 3, along with a number of other authorities across Scotland’s central belt and beyond.
Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee will all be in this banding, as well as East and West Dunbartonshire, Renfrewshire and East Renfrewshire, South Ayrshire, East Ayrshire and North Ayrshire, Stirling, Falkirk, Clackmannanshire, Midlothian, West Lothian and East Lothian.
Aberdeenshire, Aberdeen, Fife, the Borders, Dumfries and Galloway, Argyll and Bute, Perth and Kinross and Angus have all been placed in Level 2.
Five authorities are in Level 1, meaning lower levels of restrictions will be applied in Highland, Moray, the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland.
We’re proposing a new five level plan for #coronavirus measures in Scotland.
Read more on our website ⬇
— Scottish Government (@scotgov) October 23, 2020
This means that in “hopefully a short time” people in these areas will be permitted to go into other people’s houses again – something that has been barred in Scotland since September.
Ms Sturgeon said it should be possible for up to six people from two households to meet up in homes again in these areas.
While she said the situation in Lanarkshire is “stabilising”, she added the decision to include in Level 3 was “borderline” and will be kept under review on a daily basis.
Across Scotland, the next review of restrictions is now due on November 10, with any changes coming into force from November 13.
Despite Europe being “firmly in the grip of a second wave of Covid”, the First Minister said Scotland is making progress in tackling coronavirus.
She said the latest indication is the R number – the average number of people each person with the virus goes on to infect – which may have “fallen slightly to 1.3”.
But the First Minister said she could not rule out having to impose the most severe Level 4 restrictions across the country at a later date.
“We are, as of now, making progress in Scotland,” she said.
“But cases are still rising and the situation we face is fragile. And across Europe the pandemic is accelerating.
“So I cannot rule out a move back to nationwide restrictions in the next few weeks, including at Level 4.”
She added: “We only have to look across Europe right now, at Germany … France last night going into full nationwide lockdowns again.
“That is what we want to avoid and this is our best chance of doing that.”