Toughened lockdown restrictions in Scotland could be “revenue-crushing” for businesses, an industry body has warned.
Under new regulations announced by Nicola Sturgeon on Wednesday, the number of click and collect services allowed to operate will be reduced to only those deemed to be “essential”.
Scots will also be stopped from entering premises to purchase takeaway food or drinks, forcing restaurants to instead use a hatch or counter at the door, and forbidden to drink alcohol in public outdoors in areas under lockdown.
The First Minister said the lockdown for mainland Scotland and some island areas which began on January 5 appears to be having an effect.
But she warned against complacency, as she confirmed 79 more deaths of confirmed coronavirus patients were registered in the past 24 hours along with 1,949 new cases.
She also said it is “heart-breaking” that the death toll of people with confirmed or suspected coronavirus has now risen above 7,000 in Scotland.
Speaking in the Scottish Parliament, Ms Sturgeon urged people to follow the “spirit” of the new regulations.
She said: “Don’t think in terms of the maximum interactions you can have without breaking the rules.
“Think instead about how you minimise your interactions to the bare essentials to remove as many opportunities as possible for the virus to spread.
“In everything you do, assume that the virus is there with you – that either you have it or any person you are in contact with has it – and act in a way that prevents it passing between you.”
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
But business leaders said the new restrictions would harm already struggling retail and hospitality firms.
Scottish Retail Consortium director David Lonsdale said: “The situation with the pandemic is fast moving and we fully recognise Government wants people to stay home.
“However these further revenue-crushing restrictions and the fresh complexity they bring, together with constant chopping and changing to the Covid Strategic Framework, are disconcerting and come at an incredibly difficult time for retail.
“The businesses affected – who have already lost much of their income during the crisis – are trying to make the best fist possible of the current severely curtailed trading conditions, and that just got even harder as a result of this decision which will add to their cash flow woes.”
Mr Lonsdale pushed for more support to be made available for businesses, saying current provisions will not fill the gaps left by customers forced back into their homes by lockdown.
Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) Scotland policy chair Andrew McRae agreed with Mr Lonsdale, although he added firms will be happy that not all have been forced to close.
“For those businesses that now do need to cease trading, their attention will quickly turn to where they can get financial help and support from Government,” he said.
“In doing so, many will find that their business is ineligible or that a fund that could help them has yet to launch.
“We need all the stops pulled out to get more money out the door and into struggling firms, or run the risk of mass business closures.”