A ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown banning the serving of alcohol indoors has been declared in Scotland, in a bid to get rising coronavirus cases back under control.
Pubs and restaurants and other hospitality venues will only be allowed to open indoors between 6am and 6pm under the 16 day curfew – on condition they don’t serve alcohol.
To soften the blow these curbs will have on Scotland’s hospitality industry, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced an additional £40million of funding to help keep businesses afloat.
Under the new rules, which come into force on Friday and end on October 25, venues will be able to serve alcohol outdoors up until the current 10pm curfew which applies across Scotland, Wales and England.
Pubs and licensed cafes in five Scottish health board areas – Greater Glasgow & Clyde, Lanarkshire, Ayrshire and Arran, Lothian and Forth Valley – must shut to all but takeaway customers for more than two weeks from Friday.
However cafes without an alcohol licence in Scotland’s central belt will be allowed to open until 6pm, in a bid to counter social-isolation. People in these areas have been asked to avoid public transport unless absolutely necessary for the next two weeks.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had previously indicated the country wasn’t going to return to a full scale lockdown like the one enforced in March. People are not being asked to stay at home, schools will not be forced to close and vulnerable people are not being asked to shield again.
But with an average of 780 new cases each day in the country and an 80% rise of people this hospital this week, Sturgeon urged that action is needed now to curb the nation’s outbreak.
Without further steps, she said: ‘We are likely to return to the peak levels of infections we had in the spring by the end of this month.’
Scientists have warned the R number in Scotland could be as high as 1.7, meaning every 10 carriers would go on to infect another 17 people.
Another 1,054 people had tested positive in Scotland in the past 24 hours, up from 800 the day before. One more person has died and 319 are in hospital with confirmed coronavirus, up from 54. Out of those patients, 28 are in intensive care.
Sturgeon also said shops in Scotland will be required to enforce the two-metre social distancing rule again ’until further notice’ and said staff would be asked to return to measures such as one-way systems.
Announcing the new measures today, she said: ‘None of this is easy. I’m acutely aware that in every decision we take, lives and jobs are at stake. And I want to assure not just the chamber, but the country, that none of these decisions are taken lightly.’
Sturgeon said she was ‘grateful’ for the work done by hospitality businesses to stop the spread of coronavirus and said ‘nobody is pointing the finger of blame’ at them.
But she said an evidence paper published today suggests these settings are a particular risk, even when businesses are making an conscious effort to follow the rules.
Sturgeon told MSPs: ‘We know that more than one fifth of people contacted by test and trace, report having visited a hospitality setting.
‘All of these reasons, significantly restricting licensed premises for 16 days temporarily removes one of the key opportunities the virus has to jump from household to household. It is an essential part of our efforts to get the R number significantly below 1.’
Speaking on BBC Scotland’s Seven Days programme last week, National Clinical Director Jason Leitch said there are hopes that circuit breaker restrictions could push the outbreak back by 28 days and ‘buy time’ for the winter, when hospitals will be at their busiest.
He added: ‘You get the R number down, you get the numbers down to a reasonable level and then you can begin to reintroduce some of the things that you’ve closed.
‘So the idea is that a two-week, roughly, circuit-breaker, would buy you 28 days. You don’t know that for sure, because it’s not an exact science, but it would buy you about a month in the pandemic.’
But industry leaders have warned further restrictions could be the final nail in the coffin for many hospitality businesses.
Paul Waterson, of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association warned Scotland could lose two-thirds of its pubs and half of staff if rules are tightened beyond the previous 10pm curfew.
He told BBC Breakfast: ‘To have more restrictions would really be a disaster, not only for pubs and bars but for the whole hospitality industry.’
Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland, Coronavirus, Lockdown, Scottish Government
Actu monde – GB – Scotland bans alcohol in pubs from Friday for 16-day ‘circuit break’