First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has defended new coronavirus restrictions that will cause numerous bars and restaurants to close.
Changes that come into force tonight will prevent alcohol from being served indoors after 6pm until October 25.
Bars and restaurants in five central belt health boards have to close entirely at 6pm, but cafes can stay open during the day if they do not serve alcohol.
The distinction caused today’s coronavirus briefing with Ms Sturgeon to be dominated by questions about what makes the difference between a bar, a restaurant and a cafe.
Speaking about the “lack of clarity”, the first minister said: “Sometimes that’s the price we have to pay right now for trying to be as flexible as possible.
“It would have been much easier and would have given much greater clarity just to stick to the position yesterday that cafes with a licence had to close, but we decided to try to strike a different balance.”
There have been 1,246 new Covid-19 cases and six additional deaths in Scotland in the past 24 hours.
The figure represents 16.2% of newly-tested individuals.
National clinical director Jason Leitch said if no action was taken, Scotland would surpass a peak of cases reached earlier in the year by the end of October.
He said: “Our advice to the first minister and the cabinet was that without further action, new infections would likely increase to levels that would put our national health service at risk.”
Addressing business owners directly, Ms Sturgeon acknowledged they had been left in a “horrendous” position, but said the measures were necessary to protect lives.
She said: “I know how difficult this is. I hate every aspect of what we are doing right now with every fibre of my being but there is no alternative.
“If we don’t take these steps, I’ll be standing here in a week, two weeks, a month’s time and the numbers I’m reading out today will seem like nothing compared to then, and I don’t want to to do that.”
They will be entitled to serve outdoors until 10pm but numerous bars have already signalled their intention to temporarily close until October 25 because their business will not be viable.
Details of a £40 million fund to support businesses hit by the new restrictions has been delayed.
Ms Sturgeon said during the briefing that an announcement was planned for this morning, but was being held until after an announcement from Chancellor Rishi Sunak about support from the UK Government.
With reports emerging that Mr Sunak would announce a partial extension of the furlough scheme this afternoon, the first minister urged him to ensure it would be in effect in Scotland by Friday, to cover those impacted by the new regulations.
In reference to cafes, restaurants and bistros unsure if they would be allowed to be open from tomorrow, Ms Sturgeon said that any in doubt about their status should close.
It prompted one journalist to ask whether the new rules had descended into a “shambles” with only a few hours to go until they come into force.
The first minister replied: “We are defining this as well as we can. I know this is difficult, we are trying to give as much flexibility as possible.
“But if people want us to come down firmly on one side or the other, it will be on the side of closing more businesses.”
Prof Leitch added: “As you re-open, every country in the world struggles to find the sweet spot between clarity of message and trying to open business and society.
“As we do new things, yes that clarity is really difficult to achieve.
“It would be easier to go back to March 23 and shut everything, but it is not appropriate for this stage of the pandemic.”
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