SCOTLAND and the other nations in the UK have imposed tough new restrictions over the Christmas period and into the new year following the discovery of a new and highly contagious strain of the Covid-19 virus that spreads more rapidly.
From Boxing Day Shetland and the other island areas will be placed under level three restrictions for three weeks, with the rest of Scotland level four – the toughest tier.
The five days of relaxation over the Christmas period have also been altered drastically.
Families are only allowed to meet in a ‘bubble’ on Christmas Day – up to eight people from no more than three households – but they are advised not to.
All cross border travel within the UK has been banned by law and police will enforce the new regulations.
As of 26 December mainland Scotland will be put in to level four of Covid restrictions until the middle of January.
The islands – Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles – will be put in to level three. These restrictions will be reviewed after two weeks.
Under level three no household visits can take place, and hospitality venues cannot sell alcohol.
Two households, up to a maximum of six people, can meet in an indoor public place such as a cafe or restaurant.
Last entry for hospitality venues is 5pm and all places must be closed and all customers off the premises by 6pm.
School pupils, meanwhile, will be taught online until at least 18 January.
During an emergency statement late on Saturday afternoon, first minister Nicola Sturgeon said the situation was serious and she had felt rarely felt more worried than she had today.
“Last week it was confirmed that a new variant of the virus had been identified in the UK, and I advised Parliament that a small number of cases of it had already been identified in Scotland.
“While further analysis is required to establish this one way or another, we already have a concern that this strain may be driving what appears to be faster transmission in some hospitals and care homes.
“That’s why we have decided to act and to act firmly.”
She said: “I am desperately sorry; it breaks my heart to be standing here and saying these things. I know there will be heartbroken people listening to this right now.”
“But this is a once in a century pandemic that we just have to get through as safely as possible.”
And she added that if meeting at all at Christmas Day people should try to do so outdoors.
“Anybody who is thinking of meeting another household, travelling to do that, you put yourself at risk and your are putting the people you love at risk,” she said.
“My message is stay home, stay safe and enjoy Christmas. That is in your own interest and the interest of everyone you love.”
“The police will enforce travel restrictions that are in force (…) but I ask people to abide by the law to keep themselves and their loved ones safe.”
Shetland has not had a confirmed Covid-19 case for more than two weeks. The total number of confirmed cases stands at 76.
Meanwhile, Loganair has said that the changes to the UK travel restrictions will have an impact on customers travelling between 22 December and 31 January 2021.
In a statement on its Facebook page the airline said: “Please do not contact our call centre if at all possible, all customers due to travel over this period will be contacted by e-mail within the next 24-48 hours regarding their options.”
The first minister’s full statement can be read here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-update-first-ministers-speech/
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