Toughest Covid restrictions in Scotland to be imposed on 11 council areas

20 November 2020, 07:14 | Updated: 20 November 2020, 12:39

Members of the public on Buchanan Street in Glasgow
Members of the public on Buchanan Street in Glasgow. Picture: PA

By Megan White

The toughest coronavirus restrictions in Scotland will be imposed on 11 council areas as of 6pm on Friday.

Earlier this week, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced the "unpalatable but necessary" step of moving parts of west and central Scotland from Level 3 to Level 4 for three weeks due to "stubbornly and worryingly high" infection rates.

It means non-essential shops, hospitality, gyms and beauty salons will be among the businesses forced to close in these areas until December 11.

Read more: Northern Ireland to extend lockdown weeks before Christmas

The areas moving to Level 4 are Glasgow, Renfrewshire, East Renfrewshire, East Dunbartonshire, West Dunbartonshire, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire, East Ayrshire, South Ayrshire, Stirling and West Lothian.

A ban on people in Level 3 and Level 4 areas travelling outside of their council boundaries for non-essential purposes will also come into law with reminders issued that public transport must not be used unless essential.

People still cannot meet in each other's homes, with exceptions for extended households and those providing care, while socialising outdoors also remains limited to six people from two households.

Takeaway services and essential work-related accommodation can continue but indoor sports facilities and all leisure and entertainment venues will close.

Places of worship remain open but with a limit of 20 people with the same for funerals, while weddings and civil partnerships have a maximum of 15 attendees - including the couple.

Schools will also remain open with enhanced and targeted protective measures despite teaching unions and industry bodies

criticising the move and calling for a return to blended learning for pupils.

Midlothian and East Lothian will have their Covid-19 restrictions eased as they move from Level 3 to Level 2 while the remaining 19 council areas will not change.

The move came as Northern Ireland officials said they had "no other choice" but to extend their "circuit breaker" lockdown from 27 November to save the health service.

The country was poised to emerge from a limited circuit-breaker lockdown until the number of infections rose to worrying levels, but pubs and restaurants have been told they will need to stay closed.

Close-contact services and cafes can open this Friday as planned but will have to close again next Friday, while other hospitality sectors like pubs and licensed restaurants will remain closed throughout, Stormont ministers said.

From November 27, non-essential retail and services like hairdressers, beauticians and driving lessons will also have to shut to protect an NHS battling a surge in coronavirus cases.

Takeaway hospitality will be allowed but leisure and entertainment venues will be closed.

The measures were taken as top doctors warned hospitals could otherwise be overwhelmed.