Scotland enters second national lockdown with stay-at-home order in place

4 January 2021, 14:04 | Updated: 5 January 2021, 05:39

By Megan White

Scotland entered a second national coronavirus lockdown at midnight after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced the measure to tackle the rise in Covid-19 cases.

A legal stay-at-home order will be in place across the country, with the public only allowed out for "essential reasons" such as shopping or exercise, until at least the end of January.

Only two people from up to two households will be able to meet outdoors, but children under 11 are not included.

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Schools will stay shut to most pupils until February 1, as part of efforts to curb the spread of the faster spreading strain of Covid-19.

The First Minister said she is more concerned about coronavirus now than she has been for the duration of the pandemic, adding that Scotland is thought to be around four weeks behind the situation in London and the south east of England.

Updating MSPs in Holyrood, Ms Sturgeon said: "It is no exaggeration to say that I am more concerned about the situation we face now than I have been at any time since March last year."

She told the Scottish Parliament that these changes will be kept "under review", adding: "I cannot at this stage rule out keeping them in place longer, nor making further changes. Nothing about this is easy."

The announcement will mean an additional two weeks of home learning for most pupils.

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The Scottish Government had already announced the festive break was being extended to January 11, with ministers having originally planned for remote learning until January 18.

However, schools will still be open for the children of key workers who cannot work from home, and for vulnerable youngsters.

From Friday, places of worship will close, apart from for funerals or weddings.

Without intervention, Ms Sturgeon has said, the NHS in Scotland may become overwhelmed in the coming weeks.

NHS capacity is already beginning to strain at some health boards, the First Minister said, with NHS Ayrshire and Arran currently at 96% capacity, while Borders, Greater Glasgow and Clyde and Lanarkshire are above 60%.

According to modelling by the Scottish Government, the First Minister told MSPs that taking no action could see Covid-19 capacity in hospitals overrun within "three or four weeks".

Ms Sturgeon said: "We have an opportunity in Scotland to avert the situation here deteriorating to that extent.

"But we must act quickly."

Ms Sturgeon told MSPs the decision had been taken after a meeting of the Scottish Cabinet on Monday morning.

She said: "I can confirm now, in summary, that we decided to introduce from tomorrow, for the duration of January, a legal requirement to stay at home except for essential purposes. This is similar to the lockdown of March last year."

The First Minister said Scotland recorded 1,905 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, down from the 2,464 reported on Sunday.

Addressing the Scottish Parliament, she said the daily test positivity rate is 15%, a marginal drop from 15.2% on Sunday.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has urged Scots to "stick with" new restrictions as a coronavirus vaccine is rolled out.

She said: "I know that the next few weeks will be incredibly tough.

"I'm sorry to ask for further sacrifices, after nine long months of them. But these sacrifices are necessary.

"And the difference between now and last March is that with the help of vaccines, we now have confidence that they will pave the way to brighter days ahead. So - for everyone's sake and safety - please stick with it and stay home."

The First Minister also returned to the public messaging from the March lockdown, saying: "Stay home. Save lives. Protect the NHS."

As a result of Scotland's return to lockdown, Police Scotland Chief Constable Iain Livingstone confirmed the force would increase patrols "to explain the regulations and to encourage people to do the right thing".

He also said: "I fully recognise the impact these further restrictions will have on people's lives.

"However, it is clear that the significant sacrifices being made by people across Scotland are vital to help suppress the spread of coronavirus.

"People should not leave their homes unless for essential purposes. The best way to stay safe is to stay at home.

"Officers and staff have worked exceptionally hard throughout the pandemic to keep people safe and our visible presence will be increased over the coming days and weeks.

"The vast majority of people have stepped up to take responsibility and our determination and collective effort to tackle this virus must now continue in the difficult times ahead."