Mainland Scotland has returned to lockdown until at least the end of January in a bid to combat further spread of the new coronavirus strain.
The latest restrictions came into effect from midnight in all Level 4 areas of the Scottish Government’s five-tier system and will continue throughout the month.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced the new rules on Monday afternoon, just hours before Prime Minister Boris Johnson also imposed a third national lockdown on England.
She tweeted: “Being back in lockdown is really hard to take for everyone, but it is necessary to slow down this new strain of the virus while we get people vaccinated.
“Please – for you own safety, that of your loved ones and of the whole country: Stay at Home, Protect the NHS and Save Lives.”
Being back in lockdown is really hard to take for everyone, but it is necessary to slow down this new strain of the virus while we get people vaccinated. Please – for you own safety, that of your loved ones and of the whole country: Stay at Home, Protect the NHS and Save Lives.
— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) January 4, 2021
Speaking to the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland radio programme on Tuesday, the First Minister said it may be possible to lift the latest restrictions if the vaccination programme manages to push ahead of the virus in the “race” over the coming months.
She said: “Lockdown is about trying to slow down the virus and push rates of it back down.
“Now, if we manage to do that, then hopefully we will be able to start lifting some of these restrictions while the vaccination programme is ongoing, even in that first phase of it.
“But I can’t be certain about that yet, because it’s dependent on us managing to get the levels of infection down.”
The First Minister also appeared on BBC Breakfast, where she said she appreciated how difficult the restrictions are.
She said: “Generally I think we’re all struggling with this, I had a situation myself before Christmas, at a funeral, a momentary lapse of concentration which meant I was speaking to somebody without my face coverimg on.
“I understand that it’s really, really difficult but this is a moment when it’s more important than at any time since March last year for us all to stick rigidly to all of these restrictions because not only is the virus still out there, it’s out there and spreading faster.”
A legally-enforceable stay-at-home order will apply across mainland Scotland and Skye with people only permitted to leave their home for an “essential purpose”.
This includes essential shopping, exercise, caring for someone, or if you are part of an extended household.
Anyone able to work from home must do so however those shielding to protect themselves from Covid-19 should not go into work – even if they cannot work from home.
Schools will be closed to most pupils until February 1 at the earliest, meaning an additional two weeks of home learning for youngsters, in a move welcomed by teaching unions on Monday.
Our message to Scotland is to #StayAtHome.
You should now only leave the house for essential reasons like:
✔ Getting food or medicines✔ Any medical need✔ Exercise
By following these rules you’re saving lives.
— Scottish Government (@scotgov) January 4, 2021
Ms Sturgeon also revised the numbers of those allowed to gather outside to just two people from two different households, instead of the previous limit of six people from two households.
However children aged 11 and under are not included in this limit and can still “play outdoors in larger groups, including in organised gatherings”.
From Friday, places of worship must close but can open to broadcast a service or conduct a funeral, wedding or civil partnership.
A maximum of 20 people can attend a funeral service but wakes are banned, while up to five people can attend weddings and civil partnership services.
Police Scotland Chief Constable Iain Livingstone also confirmed there will be “increased patrols” in Scotland’s communities and said and officers will continue to act against anyone making “wilful breaches” of the law.
Shetland, Orkney, Western Isles and several other islands currently remain at Level 3 restrictions.