Scotland ‘not going back to March’ lockdown, Sturgeon says
Nicola Sturgeon said ‘additional, targeted steps’ were being considered to stem the spread of the virus in Scotland. Photograph: Scottish government/AFP/Getty Images
Additional coronavirus restrictions to be announced in Scotland on Wednesday will not amount to another lockdown, Nicola Sturgeon has said, moving to reassure the public that the country would not be “going back to March”.
Following intense speculation about the nature of the “short, sharp shock” – or “circuit-breaker” – restrictions to stem the rising infection rate, which ministers and public health officials have been floating for more than a week, Scotland’s first minister said explicitly they would not be shutting down the economy or closing schools.
Insisting she wanted to be as “open and frank as possible”, Sturgeon used her daily briefing to defuse public apprehension by setting out what her government was not proposing to do, 24 hours ahead of the announcement of further restrictions in the Holyrood chamber on Wednesday.
Last week, the national clinical director, Jason Leitch, suggested a circuit-breaker could push the course of the pandemic back by 28 days, causing parental and business anxiety about the possibility of school or hospitality closures.
The UK government is also thought to have considered imposing short-term nationwide restrictions across England. Some reports suggested this could coincide with the country’s autumn half-term in late October.
While emphasising that “additional, targeted steps” to stem the spread of the virus – which is particularly pronounced in the central belt – were still being considered, Sturgeon said the Scottish government was not proposing even a temporary lockdown, would not be asking people to stay at home as they did in March, and would not impose travel restrictions for the whole of the country – though she said they may be needed for hotspot areas.
“We are not about to shut down the entire economy,” she said. “We are not about to halt the remobilisation of the NHS … We are not proposing to close schools, either wholly or even partially.”
But she added that given the increase in infections, with a further 800 positive tests recorded on Tuesday, “the government is receiving very strong public health advice that action over and above the current restrictions is necessary”.
Noting the ongoing economic and social impacts of restrictions, and acknowledging that “people generally find it much harder to cope now”, she said the cabinet would meet again on Wednesday to finalise discussion, followed by a parliamentary statement on any further restriction.
Tourism and hospitality leaders have warned that the reintroduction of tougher restrictions across their sector during the October school holidays would disrupt that last chance for businesses to make money before the end of the year.
At Tuesday’s briefing, Leitch said the greatest source of infection remained people mixing in homes or elsewhere indoors. “That of course leads you into a conversation about what you can do with hospitality, but hospitality is not one homogenous thing. A daytime cafe for single parents and elderly people is very different from the night-time economy.”
There have also been growing calls from opposition parties to consult parliament before announcements are made. The Scottish Labour leader, Richard Leonard, said: “Holyrood is currently being treated as an afterthought, in the same fashion that Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings treat Westminster, and that must change.”
Asked about the time taken for restrictions to be agreed, given some reports that they could come into force as soon as Friday evening, Sturgeon said: “These are not easy decisions … we do need to analyse data for a period in order to be as certain as possible we are making the right decisions, and we try to be open along the way so we do discuss things we are considering.”
The Welsh government said on Tuesday it was “giving consideration” to similar circuit-breaker measures, while continuing to work on ways to stop people from travelling to Wales from Covid hotspots in England.
The first minister, Mark Drakeford, said measures could include bringing in the same sort of quarantine requirements that people arriving from hotspots overseas were obliged to follow.
During first minister’s questions, Drakeford once again criticised Boris Johnson for not bringing in rules in England to stop people travelling out of hotspots.
- Nicola Sturgeon
- Coronavirus outbreak
- Scottish National party (SNP)
- Scottish politics
- Mark Drakeford