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Latest Lockdown Policy Review & Rules For Scotland

With all of the news coverage and talk of the relaxing of the current lockdown in England and how individual counties have been allocated to one of the three tiers, it is important to remember that there are differing systems in both Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. From the early days of the pandemic response, it was clear that Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, was not afraid to diverge from the approach being taken by the English. In this article, we will outline the latest lockdown policy rules for Scotland, including the five-tier system and the new arrangements for the festive period.

What Are The Current Protection Levels In Scotland?

At the end of October 2020, Nicola Sturgeon announced that Scotland would switch to a system of five protection levels, from zero (the lowest and least restrictive) to four (the highest and most restrictive). The restrictions for each tier are as follows:

Level Zero: This is the least restrictive of the five levels and closest to relative normality. People can meet indoors with up to a maximum of eight people from three different households. Most businesses in Scotland can remain open.

Level One: Under level one, indoor household meetings are reduced to a maximum of six people from two households. Hospitality premises have a curfew of 22:30.

Level Two: Level two means there are additional restrictions on hospitality, and no gatherings are permitted in homes. Pubs and restaurants are only permitted to serve alcohol with the main meal, and they must close indoors at 20:00 and outdoors at 22:30.

Level Three: Under level three, most hospitality businesses are required to close, but some restaurants can stay open.

Level Four: Tier four is the closest to the first full lockdown, but not as restrictive. Non-essential shops are required to close, however, up to six people can meet outdoors (children under the age of 12 do not count towards this number), and there is no limit on outdoor exercise. Pubs, restaurants, and cafes are required to close but are permitted to serve takeaways. Journeys must be kept to a minimum.

At present (26th November 2020), eleven Scottish regions are in level four; Glasgow, Renfrewshire, East Renfrewshire, East Dunbartonshire, West Dunbartonshire, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire, East Ayrshire, South Ayrshire, Stirling and West Lothian.

Level three includes Angus, Clackmannanshire, Dundee, Edinburgh, Falkirk, Fife, Inverclyde, Midlothian, North Ayrshire, Perth & Kinross.

Level two includes Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Argyll & Bute, Borders, Dumfries & Galloway, East Lothian.

Level one includes Highland, Moray, Orkney, Shetland, Western Isles.

The law also requires those living in level three and four regions not to travel outside of their own council area unless it is considered essential. Travel to England is also not permitted, again unless essential.

What Other Guidance Has The Scottish Government Issued?

Beyond the five protection levels, the Scottish government has made a number of recommendations to contain the spread of the virus, including:

  • Existing measures such as two-metre physical distancing rules and one-way systems in supermarkets should still be followed.
  • Face coverings are required in indoor communal settings, in shops, and on buses, trains, trams, planes and taxis.
  • People have been asked to avoid sharing a car with other households – if this is unavoidable, then they are asked to open the windows, sit as far apart as possible, and wear a facemask.
  • Colleges and universities must use blended learning
  • Driving lessons are permitted in all levels apart from level four
  • Places of worship are allowed to open but with no more than 50 people. Weddings civil partnerships, funerals, wakes and receptions are limited to 20 people. Under level four, weddings and civil partnerships are limited to 15 people, and only 20 people are allowed to attend a place of worship. Wedding and civil partnership receptions are, however, not permitted.

These rules will be in place until two weeks before Christmas and will be lifted at 6 pm on 11th December.

What Are The COVID-19 Restrictions In Scotland For The Festive Period?

On 24th November 2020, in her most recent briefing, Nicola Sturgeon said that the UK and devolved governments had made “progress towards a common position across the UK”.

The latest guidancestates, “During the period 23rd December to 27th December inclusive, there will be a limited relaxation of the COVID-19 rules to allow people to travel within the UK to spend Christmas together, in “Bubbles” of up to three households if they wish”. This will apply regardless of which level a region is currently in.

In explaining the reason for the relaxation of the rules over Christmas, the Scottish government states, “This is being done not to encourage people to mix with other households, but because the Scottish Government recognises that isolation and loneliness can hit people particularly hard over the Christmas period and that some may therefore feel it necessary to do so”.

The government has also been clear that while the rules will be relaxed, it is still incumbent on everyone to exercise caution and to reduce risk where possible (e.g. if there are clinically vulnerable people in the household). They also recommend keeping bubbles to a maximum of eight people, even though it is technically possible for three households to meet. They also say that children under 12 are not required to physically distance from others.

Wrapping Up

There is a great deal of advice and guidance on the Scottish government website regarding the festive period relaxation of the COVID-19 restrictions. There are real concerns that allowing people to drop their guard over Christmas will lead to a larger third wave and longer lockdown as a consequence. It can only be hoped that the majority will be sensible in how they use their limited freedom over the festive period.

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