Scotland will enter a new national lockdown until at least the end of January from midnight tonight.
Scots will be legally required to stay at home except for essential purpose; outdoor exercise, caring responsibilities, essential shopping, and visiting an extended household.
Schools will remain closed at least until the end of January, although First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said in her statement to the Scottish Parliament on Monday afternoon that education will be the first area the country looks to open as it remerges from this new period of lockdown. Further details on universities and colleges will be provided later this week.
The new measures come in light of the rapid rise of coronavirus cases, brought about largely by the new strain of the virus that can be up to 70% more transmissible and has the potential to increase the R number by 0.7.
Sturgeon also set out the dismal position the NHS currently find itself in at the hands of the new strain, saying “I’m more concerned about the situation we face now than I have been at any time since March.”
The First Minister stated that Scotland could breach inpatient Covid capacity in 3-4 weeks. Health boards are battling record levels of cases, with Ayrshire and Arran already at over 90% of its capacity for coronavirus patients.
1905 new cases of coronavirus were identified in Scotland over the latest 24-hour period, with a test positivity rate of 15%.
Adjustments have also been made to the guidance regarding outdoor meetings. From tomorrow, a maximum of two people from two households can meet outside, a tightening of the previous rules, which allowed for up to six people from two households to meet outdoors. These restrictions still do not apply to those aged 11 and under.
Some more measures will be introduced from Friday, with places of worship forced to close, apart from funerals, weddings, civil partnerships, and broadcasting services. A maximum of 20 people will be able to attend funerals, while weddings and civil partnerships will be restricted to five attendees.
In more positive news, Sturgeon confirmed that over 100,000 Scots have received their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine. This number is expected to increase quickly over the coming weeks, as the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine begins its rollout across the UK today.
Based on the current trajectory of vaccine supply and administration, Scotland hopes to have over 900,000 of the country’s most vulnerable vaccinated by the end of the month.
The First Minister also outlined plans for at least the first dose of a vaccine to be given to everyone over the age of 50, and those aged under 50 with underlying health conditions, by “early May.”