How would a 'circuit breaker' lockdown work for Scotland?

Nicola Sturgeon has refused to rule out the use of a so-called ‘circuit breaker' lockdown, but what could one look like and what would it mean for people in Scotland?

Edinburgh's Royal Mile fell silent during the first complete lockdown
Edinburgh's Royal Mile fell silent during the first complete lockdown

Leaked plans of what a potential ‘circuit breaker’, or ‘fire breaker’ lockdown, could look like were first made public on 21 September as Scotland faced high numbers of new cases.

Shortly afterwards, the Scottish Government imposed strict bans on the number of households people were allowed to mix between and imposed a 10pm curfew on hospitality.

How likely is a circuit breaker lockdown?

It is hard to know for certain. However, the Scottish Government and Ms Sturgeon have been highlighting the need for further restrictions and examples of where circuit breaker lockdowns have been used elsewhere.

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The First Minister posted on Twitter on Sunday night about the planned ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown in France, while national clinical director Jason Leitch said such a lockdown would “buy Scotland time”.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney has also said a circuit breaker lockdown could be possible if cases continue to rise, and did not rule out imposing the restrictions on Scotland.

What could a circuit breaker lockdown look like?

Among the potential restrictions which could be imposed on Scotland include the closure of all hospitality venues, something the First Minister has indicated may have been her preference when introducing the 10pm curfew.

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If it takes place over the October break for schools, it is also likely to include and overlap with already planned school closures to minimise the impact of the loss of education on children and the burden on parents. Ms Sturgeon has regularly said her main priority is to keep schools open.

Universities and colleges could also close completely and be reduced to remote learning only, with other options including the closure of entertainment venues, hairdressers and other personal retail services such as driving lessons.

Similar to the first lockdown in March, there could be a return to the ‘Stay At Home’ messaging, alongside a five or 30-mile travel restriction and reimposed restrictions on visiting those in care homes or in hospitals.

What would this mean for people in Scotland?

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In simple terms, a circuit breaker lockdown would be very similar to the lockdown imposed across Scotland in late March. However, its length would be pre-determined and likely to last a maximum of two or three weeks.

The Scottish Government has not ruled out rolling out such a lockdown across the country in line with October breaks in schools, meaning parts of the country could be under stricter restrictions at different points.

Practically, it could mean an end to going to the pub or to restaurants, a return to home working for all workers who can, and a ban on travel outwith your local area.

This could see the closure of domestic tourism over the October break, and a clear message to not fly abroad during the two weeks with a potential quarantine requirement when people return from holiday.

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The exact impact on jobs is also uncertain given the furlough scheme is due to end on 31 October, which could coincide with a circuit breaker lockdown.

The new Job Support Scheme is only open to those who are working, rather than allowing individuals to stay off work.

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Joy Yates

Editorial Director

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