Nicola Sturgeon has warned a pan-Scotland lockdown could be imposed if people flout Covid travel restrictions to do their Christmas shopping.
The first minister said an approach like the one being taken in England, where the whole country has been put into severe restrictions, would have to be introduced north of the border if regulations are ignored.
The warning was issued at Ms Sturgeon’s daily coronavirus briefing where she announced there had been a further 32 deaths in the last 24 hours.
Ms Sturgeon was speaking just before large parts of west and central Scotland were put into level four restrictions, the tightest measures under the Scottish Government’s five-tier system.
Warning over shopping trips
Under the rules, people living in council areas designated as level three or four should not travel beyond their local authority for non-essential purposes.
Ms Sturgeon said the tougher restrictions, imposed for a three-week period, would hopefully allow measures to be relaxed for Christmas.
But even if infection rates drop, she warned that easing of restrictions for Christmas would not be risk free and urged people to take that into account when making their arrangements for the festivities.
At the briefing, Ms Sturgeon was told that some people in tier four areas were worried they would not get what they needed for Christmas and was asked what she would do to stop them going to lower-tier areas to do their shopping.
Ms Sturgeon said the police would enforce the travel ban when “appropriate”, adding that she thought the majority of people would observe it.
“If we can’t, though, maintain a tiered approach that allows us to have lower restrictions in areas of lower prevalence, then, as England is doing already, we would have to consider having the same level of restrictions across the whole country,” Ms Sturgeon said.
“But I don’t think that should be something that becomes inevitable. I am being very open with people that if we want to keep this targeted approach, travel restrictions are a key part of that. And people should abide by them, as I believe they will.”
Joining the First Minister today is National Clinical Director, Professor Jason Leitch. https://t.co/Z1VJY29HBD
— Scottish Government (@scotgov) November 20, 2020
First minister is ‘straight with people’
Ms Sturgeon advised people to shop online if what they wanted was not available in “essential” shops.
But she said people living in areas like Glasgow and Stirling should not travel to tier three areas to shop because that would put people in those areas at risk.
“It sounds harsh, sounds pretty blunt. But given what we face right now and given what we know we can do to limit the risks, I think it is important for me to be blunt and straight with people,” she added.
Dundee, Perth and Kinross, Angus, and Fife have been put in tier three, while Aberdeenshire and Aberdeen City are in tier two. Highland, Moray, Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles are in tier one of the zero to four system.
Level four restrictions will be imposed in Glasgow, Renfrewshire, East Renfrewshire, East Dunbartonshire, West Dunbartonshire, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire, East Ayrshire, South Ayrshire, Stirling and West Lothian.
Sturgeon ‘scunnered’ by Covid restrictions
Ms Sturgeon admitted that, like others, she was frustrated by the restrictions but said they were necessary.
“These restrictions are difficult and we are all scunnered and fed up and I’m not going to stand here and pretend otherwise because I feel that same sense of being utterly scunnered and fed up as the rest of you do,” she said.
She argued measures will help infection rates come down further before the Christmas period.
“The fact is, the fewer people who are in the population who have Covid by the time we get to Christmas, the lower the risk of people being infected with it during that period,” she said.
“It’s very important for me to be clear that the risks would not be zero – which is why we must be very careful about any relaxation over Christmas and people will have to think carefully themselves, even with any relaxation, about what they want to do or not.”
Impending vaccine should ‘strengthen our resolve’
On Thursday, Ms Sturgeon said the chief medical officers of the UK nations have been tasked with developing a “concrete” proposal for household mixing, details of which could be revealed next week.
She also repeated her hopes that life could return to some semblance of normality by the spring, thanks to encouraging news on the vaccine front.
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has set out the Scottish Government plan for vaccination in Holyrood.
The first minister said: “There is a very real prospect for all of us of a substantially more normal way of life being returned to us by the time we reach the spring of next year.
“I hope that encourages us, it won’t make the next few weeks feel any better, but it hopefully will strengthen our resolve to stay safe ourselves, keep our families safe, keep others safe before we reach that point.”