PEOPLE are to stay at home following the announcement of a fresh coronavirus lockdown in Scotland for January.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has today announced new measures to curb the faster-spreading strain of Covid-19.

  • Laws will mean that from midnight on Monday, January 4, people are to stay at home except for outdoor exercise, essential shopping and caring duties.
  • Schools and nurseries are expected to remain closed until February with remote learning in place. This will apply to all pupils except vulnerable children and the children of key workers with a review to come on January 18.
  • Tougher restrictions will also apply to outdoor gatherings. Only two people from two households will be able to meet, but children under the age of 12 do not count toward the limit.
  • From Friday, places of worship are also to close except for broadcasting or to hold weddings and funerals. A maximum of five people will be able to attend a wedding or civil partnership service; while the limit for funerals will be 20. However, wakes will not be possible during January.
  • Strict travel restrictions will remain in place within the country. No one will be allowed to travel in or out of Scotland unless it is for an essential purpose.

The announcement came after record daily levels of new Covid-19 cases being recorded across Scotland.

More than 1,900 new cases with a positivity rate of 15 per cent were reported on Monday, January 4, when the first minister asked for Holyrood to be recalled to make the announcement.

Ms Sturgeon said: “NHS services are coping at present, although the pressure on front line staff is considerable.

“But already in some areas the position is fragile and it is getting more challenging.

“And if the rate of increasing case numbers that we have seen in the past two weeks was to continue unchecked, there would be a real risk of our NHS being overwhelmed, even with contingency plans in place.

“In fact, our modelling suggests that without further intervention we could breach inpatient Covid capacity within three or four weeks.”

Public Health Scotland confirmed there is evidence that the new variant of Covid-19, originally reported from the south of England, is circulating widely in Scotland.

Speaking of the affect the faster-spreading strain is having south of the border, she added: “We have an opportunity in Scotland to avert the situation here deteriorating to that extent, but we must act quickly.”

The first minister said clinical advisors were clear that the increased transmissibility of the new strain means current Level Four restrictions may not be sufficient.

She concluded: “In short, we must return, for a period, to a situation much closer to lockdown of last March.”

Clacks MSP Keith Brown is urging people to play their part in bringing the virus back under control.

He said: “I know how difficult this further lockdown will be for everyone - but it is absolutely necessary to bring this killer virus under control.

“If the country does not act now then we risk the NHS being overwhelmed and even more people will die because of this virus.

“This is not a theoretic risk – it is the desperate reality Scotland faces now and over the coming weeks.

“That means everyone must play their part in a national fightback. And that means sticking to both the letter and the spirit of the new rules. Do not look for loopholes.

“So please stay at home and don’t go out unless it is entirely necessary. And do not travel beyond Clackmannanshire if you are going out to exercise.

“If your usual exercise spot is busy, don’t add to the crowd. Try somewhere else close by where you are not giving the virus more opportunities to spread.

“We know there is renewed hope with the rollout beginning of a second vaccine – and they will be delivered to the population as fast as possible - but they can’t protect us all yet.

“So we must not let our guard down. Instead, we must re-double our vigilance and stick even more tightly to these toughened new rules.

“I know these sacrifices are very difficult but they will not be in place for a moment longer than absolutely necessary. But, unfortunately, they are currently more vital than ever.

“I know everyone in Clackmannanshire will play their part in this national effort and together we will get through this.

“So, please, stick to the rules: Stay Home. Save lives. Protect the NHS.”

MSP Alexander Stewart also highlighted the seriousness of the current situation and called on the government to publish evidence behind all decisions.

He said: “Whilst the forthcoming vaccines present light at the end of the tunnel, this new strain of the virus renders this current the period possibly the most dangerous time since the pandemic set in.

“The increases in infection rate and the resultant pressure on the NHS must be managed correctly.

“We must take all steps to abate the spread until the vaccination is completely rolled out, and as such the responsibility of government must be to act quickly and decisively in the national interest.

“To this end, the SNP Government has to publish the evidence behind all of its decisions.”

The Scottish Government published an evidence paper online yesterday.