Pubs and restaurants in Central Belt forced to shut from Friday

Pubs and restaurants across central Scotland have been ordered to close for a fortnight in a move that has been branded a "death sentence" for hundreds of smaller establishments.

Nicola Sturgeon set out the latest coronavirus restrictions, which also mean that pubs and restaurants elsewhere in the country are banned from selling alcohol in an unprecedented move to stem the rising tide of cases.

It came as Scotland recorded more than 1,000 new cases of the virus yesterday as the second wave of the pandemic continues to escalate. There was also one new death.

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The measures unveiled by the First Minister focus on the hospitality industry.

Charles Douglas Barr outside The Last Drop on the GrassmarketCharles Douglas Barr outside The Last Drop on the Grassmarket
Charles Douglas Barr outside The Last Drop on the Grassmarket

Five health board areas - Greater Glasgow & Clyde, Lanarkshire, Ayrshire & Arran, Lothian, and Forth Valley - face stricter restrictions, with pubs and licensed cafes to shut to all but takeaway customers.

The measures come into force at 6pm on Friday for 16 days until 25 October. Other cafes with no alcohol licence can still open until 6pm.

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Elsewhere in the country pubs, restaurants and cafes can open until 6pm - but alcohol is banned.

“We need to do more and we need to do it now," Ms Sturgeon said in a Holyrood statement.

“And to those who may wonder if the measures I set out today go too far, let me be clear about this.

“If this was a purely one-dimensional decision – if the immediate harm from Covid was all we had to consider – it is quite likely that we would go further.

“But, seven months into this pandemic, I am acutely aware that this is not and cannot be a one-dimensional decision. We have a duty to balance all of the different harms caused by the pandemic.”

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A support package of £40 million will be made available to support bars and pub owners affected by these measures over the next two weeks.

But the move met with a furious reaction from industry leaders.

Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) managing director Colin Wilkinson said hundreds of of pubs will close with thousands of job losses.

“The recent introduction of the 10pm closing time plus the two-household group of six rule is having a devastating effect on the industry – closures are looming and now today’s announcement of further restrictions and temporary lockdowns will only accelerate business failure and job losses,” he warned.

Stephen Montgomery, from the Scottish Hospitality Group, issued a grim warning over the announcements.

“The First Minister has effectively signed a death sentence for many businesses across the Scottish hospitality industry, while the real problem is socialising at home," he said.

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the Scottish Beer and Pub Association, said: “These harsh new restrictions will deliver a knockout blow for many of Scotland’s much-loved pubs and the communities they serve.

"We entirely understand and appreciate the difficult situation of the government and the need to continue to take measures to suppress the virus, but we question the fairness and wisdom of these restrictions and the level of financial support available to help our sector through this.”

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Scots living in the five health boards under tougher restrictions have also been asked to avoid public transport unless absolutely necessary in the next two weeks, and use it only when travelling to work, school or for other unavoidable reasons.

While a travel restriction is not being enforced on people in these areas, Ms Sturgeon urged residents not to travel beyond their own health boards, and for those elsewhere in Scotland not to visit them.

Snooker and pool halls, indoor bowling alleys, casinos and bingo halls will close in these areas for two weeks from 10 October, with contact sports and indoor group exercise for those 18 and over suspended for the same period.

Outdoor live events will be banned in the five areas for the next two weeks.

Contact sports for people aged 18 and over, such as five-a-side football, will be suspended for the next two weeks – with an exception for professional sports - in the Central Belt.

Indoor group exercise activities will not be allowed in these areas, although the current rules will remain in place for under-18s.

Other nationwide changes mean shops will have to return to 2 metre physical distancing and reintroduce the one-way systems, which were in place earlier in the pandemic.

New regulations will also be introduced to extend the mandatory use of face coverings in indoor communal areas such as staff canteens and corridors in workplaces.

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The prevalence of the virus across Scotland is currently around 13 per cent of its March peak, but the case number is estimated to be growing by 7 per cent each day.

Ms Sturgeon warned that without taking action, the country risks "returning to the peak level of infection by the end of the month".

The new restrictions will not apply for weddings which are already booked and funerals.

The First Minister stressed the changes do not amount to a new lockdown such as that imposed in March and schools will remain open, with no requirement for people to stay inside their homes.

Scotland recorded 1,054 new coronavirus cases in 24 hours, according to figures published shortly before Ms Sturgeon's parliamentary statement.

The record-high figure was published by the Scottish Government from Health Protection Scotland data.

One further death of a patient within 28 days of first testing positive for the virus was registered in the past 24 hours, taking this total to 2,533.

The new cases represent 13 per cent of newly-tested individuals, down from 13.2 per cent on Tuesday.

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Of the new cases, 410 are in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 195 in Lanarkshire and 190 in Lothian.

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