Covid Scotland: Is Scotland heading into another lockdown?
Scotland needs further restrictions “now”, according to a senior figure in the NHS, while they are “inevitable” in London, and the UK health secretary has not ruled out a “circuit-breaker” lockdown in England before Christmas.
So how likely are further restrictions, or a lockdown, in Scotland before Christmas?
Unfortunately, some form of tighter rules are quite likely.
The Scottish Government has previously hinted heavily the only thing standing in the way of further restrictions was a lack of funding from the Treasury to support businesses.
The UK Government announced on Sunday that funding for Scotland to tackle Covid will be doubled, to £440 million.
This makes further restrictions significantly more likely in Scotland.
Nicola Sturgeon said on Friday that she would be able to give more “straightforward advice” if she had access to more funding, including being able to cancel large events such as football matches.
The government needs more cash s it can “take the steps that we think are necessary”, she said.
So what kind of further restrictions might Ms Sturgeon feel able to introduce with this extra money?
She is likely to avoid plunging the country into the harshest possible lockdown, of the kind ordered in March 2020 which saw all non-essential businesses closed and people ordered to stay at home.
Ministers recognise the negative effects of this on all other areas of life, especially the economy and mental health.
They also know the public has less capacity to obey these kinds of rules after 21 months of the pandemic, and having to enforce harsh lockdowns is a significant burden.
A return to more recent measures is more likely, such as elements of the protection levels in place over the summer. The government has moved away from location-based levels, so these may be nationwide.
Household mixing, indoor activity, and the consumption of alcohol are a few key risk factors that key clinical advisers are concerned with, so these may be the first areas targeted.
The previous level system included limits on how many people could meet indoors from different households. Nicola Sturgeon has already issued advice, rather than rules, that this be kept to three households.
Previous rules also saw limits to group sizes at hospitality settings, and on the times and locations where alcohol could be served.
Among the last things to be allowed again were large events such as clubbing, concerts and football matches.
The introduction of vaccine passports has changed the outlook on these, but they may still be among the first to go if any new restrictions are brought in.
Ministers have made clear what will be the last: education. The First Minister has said repeatedly that schools will be kept open as long as possible.
Finally, the government is likely to at least partially protect Christmas Day. Public morale is an important consideration, and some kind of leniency is expected, as was the case when household mixing was limited last year.
However, the period after Christmas will be considered fair game. With cases expected to rise, the NHS heading for the most difficult period of the year in January and February, and the festive period over, any restrictions introduced before Christmas may be tightened before very long.
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