More than 2 million Scots will face near-lockdown restrictions for three weeks after Nicola Sturgeon imposed the country’s highest level of Covid restrictions across the west of Scotland.
Following a cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning, Scotland’s first minister told MSPs that 11 local authority areas would enter level 4 – the highest of Scotland’s five-tier system of virus controls – from 6pm this Friday for a limited period.
The local authorities are West Dunbartonshire, East Dunbartonshire, Renfrewshire, East Renfrewshire, Glasgow City, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire, West Lothian, East Ayrshire, South Ayrshire and Stirling.
Those living under level 4 restrictions are advised to keep all journeys to an absolute minimum.
Sturgeon said the police would enforce the new law banning travel to and from level 3 and 4 areas as “a last resort” and “only where there is clear and flagrant breach”, but emphasised the importance of people not making journeys from high to low prevalence areas.
She said: “Passing these regulations sends a very clear and strong message to people about the importance of us complying with these rules.”
Sturgeon said level 4 was intended to be “short and sharp”, promising that the restrictions would be lifted on 11 December, and adding that “it is specifically intended to have an impact in advance of Christmas and the most challenging winter period”.
Level 4 restrictions most closely resemble the lockdown imposed in March, although two households are still allowed to meet outdoors up to a maximum of six people and there is no limit on outdoor exercise.
All non-essential shops will close, along with pubs, restaurants and cafes, as well as gyms and leisure centres, hairdressers, barbers, beauticians and indoor visitor attractions.
Schools and nurseries will remain open.
Sturgeon told the chamber that, although infection rates had stabilised or slightly fallen as a result of level 3 measures in the west of Scotland, the infection rate “remains stubbornly and worryingly high”.
“At these levels, we simply do not have the assurance we need that hospital and ICU services will be able to cope as we go deeper into winter,” she said.
“And further at these levels we would not have the flexibility we need to ease restrictions over Christmas – which, in common with the other UK nations, we so desperately want to do.”
Sturgeon told MSPs that this week it was likely that Scotland’s total coronavirus death toll would exceed 5,000, which she described as “a sombre and deeply distressing milestone”.