Scotland: Travel ban with rest of UK as strict Christmas Covid rules announced

19 December 2020, 18:17 | Updated: 19 December 2020, 20:17

Scotland has announced a travel ban with the rest of the UK and has curbed Christmas mixing
Scotland has announced a travel ban with the rest of the UK and has curbed Christmas mixing. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Scotland has announced a travel ban with the rest of the UK and will limit Christmas bubbles to just 25 December before entering a strict lockdown on Boxing Day.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed a "strict travel ban" between Scotland and the rest of the UK on Saturday evening as she updated the nation during a coronavirus press conference.

The ban will be enforceable by law and there will be just a number of exceptional circumstances.

She also announced a Level 4 lockdown from Boxing Day on the Scottish mainland, while the Western Isles, the Orkney Islands and the Shetland Islands will move up to Level 3.

Schools in Scotland will stay closed until 11 January and learning will be moved online until 18 January.

Ms Sturgeon said the measures were necessary to combat the new, highly-transmissive strain of Covid that ministers and scientists fear is spreading faster than the original strain.

Read more: London and SE enter Tier 4 and told to stay home over Christmas

Explained: What is Tier 4 and which areas are going into toughest measures?

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Scotland's original Christmas "bubble" policy for 23-27 December, that had originally been agreed upon by the four UK nations, has now been scrapped, meaning household mixing will only be allowed on Christmas Day.

Meanwhile, the travel ban between Scotland and other parts of the UK will be enforced, with Ms Sturgeon saying she will speak to police and transport operators to see how this can be "strengthened".

All of Scotland will enter Level 4 - the toughest of the county's five tiers of restrictions - for three weeks from 00:01am on Boxing Day morning.

Non-essential shops will close as will cafes, restaurants and hairdressers.

Read more: 'Christmas bubbles' only allowed on Xmas Day, PM announces

Read more: Christmas Day mixing in Wales despite lockdown from tonight

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Ms Sturgeon said the restrictions will prevent more of the new coronavirus variant entering Scotland from other parts of the UK and reduce the risk of it spreading within the country.

The new strain of the virus is the "most serious and potentially dangerous juncture" faced since the start of the pandemic, the first minister added.

She said 17 cases of the new strain had been identified in Scotland and may be driving faster transmission of Covid in some hospitals and care homes.

Without acting firmly, the new strain could lead to the NHS being overwhelmed and more people dying from the virus, she explained.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has already announced that London and the South East of England will be moved into a new Tier 4 - effectively returning to the lockdown rules of November.

The spread of Covid is now being "driven by the new variant"

The rest of England will also see the Christmas "bubble" policy - allowing up to three households to meet up over the holiday period - severely curtailed, applying on Christmas Day only.

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 per cent to 4.0 per cent.

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