Scotland’s First Minister has defended “hard and painful” new coronavirus restrictions as she announced five more deaths and a doubling of those in hospital with the virus.
Nicola Sturgeon urged people to comply with the temporary rules, which will close pubs and licensed restaurants for 16 days from 6pm on Friday in five health board areas across central Scotland.
These venues in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Lanarkshire, Ayrshire and Arran, Lothian, and Forth Valley can provide takeaways only throughout the period.
In all other areas of Scotland, pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes can only operate indoors between 6am and 6pm and will not be allowed to serve alcohol – although they can still sell drinks until 10pm in outside areas.
Speaking at the start of First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood, Ms Sturgeon said the tougher restrictions “are hard and painful for all of us, but they are about the protection of life and health”.
Scotland’s hospitality sector has criticised the new rules, with UK Hospitality executive director for Scotland Willie Macleod warning many businesses will not survive and tens of thousands of job losses are possible.
The First Minister said: “I recognise how hard these restrictions are for individuals and for businesses, hospitality businesses in particular, which is why we are making financial support available.
“But these steps are essential to get the virus back under control as we go further into the winter period.”
She told MSPs that Scotland recorded five deaths of confirmed coronavirus patients in the past 24 hours.
This takes the total under this measure – patients who died within 28 days of first testing positive – to 2,538.
A total of 1,027 new coronavirus cases were recorded over the same period, representing 13.5% of newly-tested individuals, up from 13.0% on Wednesday.
Of the new cases, 405 are in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 230 are in Lanarkshire and 152 are in Lothian.
A total of 35,787 people have now tested positive for the virus in Scotland, up from 34,760 on Wednesday.
The First Minister said 377 confirmed coronavirus patients are in Scottish hospitals – double the number last Thursday and a rise of 58 in 24 hours.
Thirty-one of these patients are in intensive care, up by three.
The R number in Scotland – the average number of people each person with Covid-19 passes the virus to – could now be as high as 1.6, she added.
Mr Macleod said the impact on affected businesses “is going to be horrific”.
He told BBC Breakfast: “Closing bars and restaurants is going to have a massive impact on businesses that are really just climbing back from a prolonged period of lockdown, they’ve reopened with reduced capacity to cope with social distancing, they were then hit by the 10pm curfew, and with reduced demand and reduced consumer confidence business resilience is as low as it can be.
UKHospitality reaction to Scotland closure announcement:
"Forced closures will spell the end for many, many venues which have no cash flow and will have exhausted their reserves. It is likely to be the final straw for many…"https://t.co/rPO0gYzbNA
— UKHospitality (@UKHofficial) October 7, 2020
“Many businesses won’t survive and I’m afraid we’re going to see tens of thousands of job losses by the time we do the final count on all of this.”
The Scottish Chambers of Commerce has warned the measures – the toughest imposed so far in the UK – will “sound the death knell for businesses across the hospitality sector, especially pubs and bars”.
And the Scottish Hospitality Group, which represents several restaurant and bar groups, claimed 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”.
The Scottish Government has pledged £40 million of funds to help the sector through the restrictions, which will be in place from Friday until Sunday October 25, and Ms Sturgeon said she hopes to provide more detail on this on Friday.
A Scottish Government evidence paper published on Wednesday shows that between the end of July and the beginning of October, more than a quarter (26%) of those who tested positive for Covid-19 reported having been in hospitality.