Scotland will go back into lockdown from Boxing Day – and planned easing of restrictions at Christmas have been scrapped, Nicola Sturgeon has said
The First Minister said she is “desperately sorry” about the measures but that they were necessary to combat the new strain of coronavirus.
The Christmas “bubble” policy has been scrapped, with household mixing only allowed on Christmas Day.
Measures had been set to ease across the UK between December 23-27.
A ban on travel between Scotland and other parts of the UK – except for essential purpose – will remain, with Ms Sturgeon saying she will speak to police and transport operators to see how this can be “strengthened”.
The restrictions will be reviewed after two weeks, Sturgeon said.
All of Scotland will enter Level 4 – the toughest of the county’s five tiers of restrictions – for three weeks from one minute after midnight on Boxing Day morning.
Non-essential shops will close as will cafes, restaurants and hairdressers.
Orkney, Shetland, the Western Isles and other Island communities will move to Level 3.
Sturgeon said: “In order to reduce the risk of more of the [coronavirus] strain being imported into Scotland, we intend to maintain a strict travel ban between Scotland and the rest of the UK.
“Unfortunately, and I am genuinely sorry about this, that ban will remain in place right throughout the festive period.
“We simply cannot risk more of this new strain entering the country if we can possibly avoid it.
“That means people from Scotland not visiting other parts of the UK, and vice versa.
“Cross-border travel for all but the most essential purposes is not permitted.”
Christmas holidays for most Scottish pupils have been extended to January 11 and the majority will begin the new term studying from home.
The First Minister said schools will reopen as currently scheduled for some pupils, such as children of key workers.
But for most pupils, the new school term will begin on January 11, with online learning until “at least” January 18.
Scottish Government ministers met on Saturday afternoon to discuss the discovery by scientists that the new variant coronavirus was spreading more rapidly.
It comes after the Prime Minister announced that from Sunday areas in the South East of England currently in Tier 3 will be moved into a new Tier 4 – effectively returning to the lockdown rules of November.
Scotland has the lowest case rate in the UK, with 112.6 cases per 100,000 of the population.
This compares with 571.7 in Wales, 219.6 in England and 174.9 in Northern Ireland.
In the past 24 hours, 41 deaths from coronavirus and 572 positive tests have been recorded north of the border, though the test positivity rate fell from 4.2% to 4.0%.
After the announcement, Sturgeon tweeted: “Staying physically apart this year is the best way to protect those we love.”
2/ It is especially tough at Christmas, but don’t visit other households indoors unless you really have to – and if you do (unless for caring responsibilities) it should only be on Christmas Day. Staying physically apart this year is the best way to protect those we love.
— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) December 19, 2020