Millions of Scots in 11 areas including Glasgow to enter tier 4 lockdown

17 November 2020, 14:33 | Updated: 17 November 2020, 15:00

Nicola Sturgeon said she hopes to ease the measures over Christmas
Nicola Sturgeon said she hopes to ease the measures over Christmas. Picture: PA

By Ewan Somerville

Millions of people in 11 areas of Scotland are set to enter the toughest tier of lockdown restrictions in a bid to control coronavirus rates before Christmas.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced areas including the city of Glasgow, north and south Lanarkshire, east and south Ayrshire, Stirling and West Lothian would be placed in tier four of the country’s five-tier system from 6pm on Friday.

These areas have "grounds for continued and significant concern", she said, adding the "short and sharp" level four restrictions will be in place for three weeks and lifted on 11 December.

She told the Scottish parliament on Tuesday afternoon the restrictions in place in recent weeks on households and hospitality have "considerably" slowed the increase in infections and helped flatten the curve.

"But the overall level of infection remains higher than we needed to be," she warned, adding "a number of local authorities" in central Scotland have case rates above the national average and cases remain "stubbornly high".

Ms Sturgeon announced:

- 19 council areas will not change from their current level, including Edinburgh and Fife remaining at level 3.

- Two areas - East Lothian and Midlothian - will move down from level 3 to level 2 from next Tuesday after a "marked decline" in Covid-19 prevalence.

- 11 local authorities for "a strictly limited period" will move from level 3 to level 4.

The restrictions will be imposed in five of the six councils within the Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board area, with the exception of Inverclyde.

The new curbs "demand more sacrifice for all of us" and are necessary to ensure the NHS can cope, Ms Sturgeon told MSPs in Holyrood.

"These decisions will give us the best possible chance, albeit in a limited and careful way, to ease restrictions in all parts of Scotland for Christmas," she said, adding this would increase infections.

Read more: England could face tougher tier system when lockdown ends on Dec 2

Read more: Government to detail post-lockdown tier system 'in next week or so', Minister tells LBC

She added "an end to all of this is within our grasp" but the next few weeks are crucial.

The Scottish leader met with her Cabinet on Tuesday morning to decide on the changes to where councils sit in the five-tier system, which begins at zero up to tier four.

Non-essential shops, pubs, restaurants, all other hospitality and gyms will close in level four areas, mirroring the curbs in England’s second lockdown, but Ms Sturgeon said it is her “objective and intention” to ensure schools remain open.

In top tier areas close contact services and leisure will also be closed, there will be travel restrictions in law and people will be urged to stay at home, but manufacturing industries can remain open.

The Scottish Government has asked adults to bear more of the restrictions to ensure schools are able to remain open for face-to-face teaching.

Ms Sturgeon said on Monday: “Young people have had months out of school already this year and if we can at all avoid it we want to ensure that they don’t have further time out of normal full-time schooling.”

Read more: Boris Johnson angers Scottish nationalists after labelling devolution 'a disaster'

Her comments came after parents called for schools in level four areas to stay open despite threats of “safety strikes” from Scotland’s biggest teaching union the EIS.

UsForThem Scotland, which now has almost 12,000 members, points to a survey among its own members suggesting most children have not been forced to self-isolate since schools returned – and most of those who were sent home never developed symptoms.

Scotland’s daily test positivity rate on Monday was 8.3 per cent, up from 7.2 per cent on Sunday, and of the new cases, 220 were in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 136 in Lanarkshire, and 101 in Lothian.

Ms Sturgeon said there had been a further 37 deaths within 28 days of a Covid-19 test as of Tuesday, bringing the total to 3,323. Deaths involving Covid are expected to pass 5,000 this week, Ms Sturgeon said, calling this a "sombre and deeply distressing milestone".

Meanwhile, ministers in England are looking at plans that could see a tougher coronavirus tier system introduced when England comes out of lockdown on 2 December.

No10 is under increased pressure to make the system tougher after health officials warned the lowest restrictions had "little effect" on infection rates.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock did not rule out an extension to England's lockdown at a Downing Street press briefing on Monday.