Today, the First Minister announced that across Scotland there had been a further 383 cases of COVID confirmed in the last 24hrs. This is 7.6% of those tested.
Today’s figures reflect the course the virus has taken in recent weeks in Scotland, where we have seen an increase in the numbers of infections, deaths, hospital admissions and seen the R number on the rise.
Yes, we know that this growth in cases – because of the collective sacrifices we all made to drive infection levels down over the summer – is from a low base, however, the Scottish Government felt we were now at a crossroads where failing to act could see the virus run out of control across Scotland again.
So, today the First Minister made a statement to Parliament where she outlined new restrictions for Scotland to help combat the spread of the virus and help save lives.
Restrictions on Household Gatherings
From the data available through Test and Protect the experts believe that a high percentage of new cases are coming from social interactions between different households.
It is also clear that if the virus infects one person in a household it is highly likely to affect others in the same household, and then will also infect people visiting that household, who will, in turn, take it back to their households.
Therefore, the First Minister made the very difficult decision to try to stop those chains of transmission and reduce the R number, that from tomorrow – Wednesday 22 September 2020 – visiting other households in their home will not be permitted.
There will be exceptions for those living alone, or alone with children, who form extended households; for couples in non-cohabiting relationships; for the provision of informal childcare by, for example, grandparents; and for tradespeople.
You can also continue to meet with one other household in groups of up to 6 outdoors, including in private gardens.
Working From Home
Working from home has been the default position in Scotland since we went into lockdown in March. However, today Nicola Sturgeon strongly reinforced this message, again reiterating everyone who can work from home should do so.
She has asked employers who have encouraged workers back to the office who could be working from home to rethink this approach. And, stated clearly that she wanted this to be done voluntarily but if necessary, the Scottish Government will act to put in a legal duty on businesses failing to allow home working.
From Friday, the First Minister announced there will be a strict 10pm curfew on all hospitality venue.
This will mean pubs and restaurants across the whole of Scotland will be required by law to close by 10pm
This decision has been made to strike a balance within the scope of the powers devolved to Scotland, which will see a reduction in the length of time people are able to spend in licensed premises, thereby curtailing the spread of the virus, while still allowing businesses to trade and provide jobs.
This has been deemed the best balance for now.
The First Minister also thanked the vast majority of hospitality businesses who have done everything they can to comply with current guidance but stated she will act to make sure that there is compliance across the board.
To ensure this, the Scottish Government will be providing resources for additional Environmental Health Officers and asking local authorities to significantly step up inspection and enforcement.
Travelling by Car
The final major new restriction which the First Minister announced today related to travelling by car.
Again, the data from Test & Protect has shown that sharing car journeys present a significant risk of transmission.
Therefore, from today the Scottish Government has advised against sharing a car with people outside your own household.
Support for People Who Are Being Asked to Self Isolate
Alongside, the First Minister announcing the tightening of restrictions across Scotland, she outlined a package of support for people who are being asked to self-isolate.
The Scottish Government will introduce financial support of £500 for those on low incomes to help them meet the financial challenges of self-isolating. Details of which will be published shortly.
They also will be working with local authorities to ensure that when someone is asked by Test & Protect to self-isolate, they will be contacted proactively and offered essential practical support – for example, help with the delivery of food and other essentials.
And, finally, the Scottish Government is to run a campaign to raise awareness of the importance of self-isolation and what it entails. Ensuring that people fully understand why they are asking them to do difficult things is the first step to ensuring compliance.
What we can All do to Stay Safe and Protect Others
• Don’t meet people in their homes or your home – because that is where the virus often spreads.
• Limit how often you meet up with people in public places – and abide by the rules in force there.
• Work from home if you can.
• Follow the advice on self-isolation if you have symptoms, test positive, or are a contact of someone who has the virus.
• Download the Protect Scotland app.
• When you do meet other people, remember FACTS at all times.
Face coverings in enclosed spaces.
Avoid crowded places.
Clean your hands and hard surfaces.
Two-metre distance from other households.
Self isolates and book a test if you have symptoms.
Keeping to all these rules isn’t easy – but they remain the best way for all of us to protect ourselves, each other, the NHS and ultimately save lives.