Nicola Sturgeon shuts pubs in areas with surging cases of coronavirus

Nicola Sturgeon has announced tough new lockdown restrictions focused on Scotland’s hospitality sector as part of a “short, sharp” package of measures aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus.

The Scottish First Minister warned the virus would be “out of control” by the end of this month without action, as she announced that in the five regions across central Scotland with the highest number of cases, licensed premises will have to shut for a 16-day period. These outlets can still operate on a take away basis.

This strict regime – the toughest in the UK – will apply in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Lanarkshire, Ayrshire and Arran, Lothian, and the Forth Valley health board areas, with an exemption for hotels serving residents.

In other areas, pubs and restaurants will only be able to open indoor spaces between 6am and 6pm and will be barred from serving alcohol there – though they can sell drinks outside until 10pm.

The First Minister promised a £40 million package of support for the hospitality sector, although business leaders have already warned this may “not be enough to stop a tidal wave of closures and job losses”.

The restrictions come as figures showed 1,054 new cases of coronavirus were recorded in the previous 24 hours – the highest daily total so far north of the border.

The new measures will come into force from 6pm on Friday, with Ms Sturgeon saying it is the Scottish Government’s “firm intent” that they will remain in place until Sunday October 25.

Speaking at Holyrood, she said: These new restrictions will last for 16 days. They are intended to be short, sharp action to arrest a worrying increase in infection.

“However although they are temporary, they are needed.

“Without them, there is a risk the virus will be out of control by the end of this month.”

The new restrictions will not apply at weddings which are already booked, or at funerals.

  • Greater Glasgow and Clyde

  • Lanarkshire

  • Ayrshire and Arran

  • Lothian

  • Forth Valley

The First Minister insisted the changes do not amount to a return to the strict lockdown imposed in March as she stressed schools will remain open and there is now no requirement for people to stay inside their homes.

But Ms Sturgeon said: “Significantly restricting licensed premises for 16 days temporarily removes one of the key opportunities the virus has to jump from household to household.”

She added the move is an “essential part” of efforts to get the R number – the average number of people each person with Covid-19 passes the virus on to – back below one.

The measures were announced just over two weeks after Scots were barred from going into other people’s homes.

Ms Sturgeon promised a further review of coronavirus testing in Scotland, to expand capacity and “extend testing to more people without symptoms”.

She also announced contact sports for adults aged 18 and above are being suspended for the next two weeks, apart from for professional sports.

Indoor group exercise activities are no longer allowed, though gyms can remain open for individual exercise.

Meanwhile Scots in the five health board areas that are worst affected are being asked not to travel by public transport unless “absolutely necessary”, and to avoid visiting anywhere outside the area in which they live.

Nicola Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon

However the First Minister said: “We are not imposing mandatory travel restrictions at this stage, and specifically, we are not insisting that people cancel any half-term breaks they have planned.”

Scottish Conservative Holyrood leader Ruth Davison described the new measures as “putting further massive restrictions on people’s lives and livelihoods”.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said the hospitality sector is “not Sodom and Gomorrah”, asking why all businesses are affected rather than just those breaching the rules.

Willie Rennie, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, said he is “frustrated and disappointed” that such “complex measures” have been “rushed through in a matter of days with little evidence of the likely impact”.

But while Scottish Green co-leader Patrick Harvie said the new restrictions are “regrettable”, he added: “In the face of the rising number of infections I believe they are necessary.”

Glasgow Chamber of Commerce chief executive Stuart Patrick welcomed the financial support for businesses affected by the measures, but said there is a “worry that £40 million will not be enough to stop a tidal wave of closures and job losses”.

Stephen Montgomery, spokesman for the Scottish Hospitality Group, said: “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.”