Could there be a nationwide Scotland lockdown after Christmas? What government has said about further restrictions

A second, March-style lockdown has not been ruled out by the First Minister

Scotland could be placed under a second nationwide lockdown, following the emergence of a new strain of Covid-19.

All areas of mainland Scotland will enter Level 4 restrictions from Boxing Day, in an attempt to slow down the spread of the new variant, which has been linked to an exponential rise in cases in south-east England.

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Under the Scottish Government’s current tiered local protection system, the Level 4 rules will last for at least three weeks. The island communities will also move from Level 1 to Level 3.

Another national lockdown in Scotland has not been ruled out for after Christmas (Shutterstock)Another national lockdown in Scotland has not been ruled out for after Christmas (Shutterstock)
Another national lockdown in Scotland has not been ruled out for after Christmas (Shutterstock)

The First Minister announced on Tuesday 22 December that the Level 4 measures will be tightened even more, with homeware stores and garden centres forced to close and people advised to “stay at home”, as they were during the first nationwide lockdown.

So, could the whole of Scotland face the toughest restrictions again? Here’s everything you need to know.

Will there be a third national lockdown?

A second nationwide lockdown, like the one which was imposed in March, could be introduced in Scotland amid fears over the new coronavirus strain, which is thought to be up to 70 percent more transmissible than the original variant.

The First Minister has warned that placing mainland Scotland under Level 4 restrictions from Boxing Day might not be “sufficient” to stop cases rising.

Nicola Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday 22 December that she would be considering if the safest way to deal with the new variant was to place the country under a March-style lockdown.

She said: “As more evidence of the impact of this new strain becomes available, we will consider whether there is a need to strengthen Level 4 restrictions any further.

“To be blunt with Parliament and the public, the current Level 4 restrictions are not as stringent as the March lockdown.

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“However, it seems that we are facing a virus that spreads much faster now than in March, so we need to consider whether the current level four restrictions will be sufficient to suppress it.”

Ms Sturgeon added that the current stay at home advice will initially be guidance, but it could be backed up by law “in the days ahead” in a move similar to spring time.

She said ministers had a “real concern” that cases could soon see “exponential growth”, just as has been the case in southern parts of England.

The First Minister said: “To be blunt, that is why we have to act now.”

Are any of the other UK nations facing another lockdown?

Another nationwide lockdown in England could also be possible after the festive season, despite large areas of the country already being under Tier 4 rules.

Millions more people in the east and south-east of England will enter a Tier 4 lockdown from Boxing Day, the health secretary announced on Wednesday 23 December.

However, top scientists have suggested that the tier system isn’t enough – saying a national approach may be more effective when it comes to tackling the new strain.

Andrew Hayward, a member of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) told the Guardian: "Personally, I think it’s clearer to give a consistent national message because although the levels of risk are different in different parts of the country, they’re still there and they’re still substantial.”

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Epidemiologist Professor John Edmunds, also a member of Sage scientific, told the BBC that tougher lockdown restrictions would be needed to tackle the new variant.

Labour leader Keir Starmer also said it was “inevitable” that further national restrictions would be needed to contain the new strain.

When asked whether a third shutdown was possible, Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said while the plan is for the tiered approach to be implemented until spring, “the latest data” would be kept under review.

Wales has said its third national lockdown - otherwise known as Alert Level 4 - will commence straight after the Christmas bubbles period ends, from 28 December.

The country’s First Minister said the lockdown will be reviewed after three weeks, but it has no end date.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “Level 4 restrictions will come into force at 6pm on 25 December, but there will be exceptions for the Christmas period that will remain (the 2 household bubble, travel to or from your Christmas bubble and accommodation open).

"These Christmas exceptions will then lapse for most people by the end of the day on the 27 – and by the end of the day on the 28, for people travelling to/from Northern Ireland.

"We will be fully in Level 4 by the end of the day on 28 December.”

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Northern Ireland has also decided to enforce another lockdown, beginning on Boxing Day and lasting for six weeks.

People will still be able to form Christmas bubbles, but anyone visiting another household must leave by 28 December.

The measures in the nation will be similar to the “sustained” shutdown which was implemented back in March.

All non-essential retail services will close, including beauty salons. Pubs, cafes and restaurants will be restricted to take away services only.