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Covid in Scotland: No ‘return to normal’ when pubs reopen

Publishedduration1 hour agoimage copyrightGetty Imagesimage captionPubs and restaurants in Scotland’s central belt are currently closed,but could reopen from 26 OctoberNicola Sturgeon has warned that Scotland will not return to normal when the current restrictions on pubs and restaurants expire later this month.Licensed premises across the central belt were temporarily closed last week, with tough restrictions…

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image captionPubs and restaurants in Scotland’s central belt are currently closed,but could reopen from 26 October

Nicola Sturgeon has warned that Scotland will not return to normal when the current restrictions on pubs and restaurants expire later this month.

Licensed premises across the central belt were temporarily closed last week, with tough restrictions placed on those elsewhere in the country.

The rules are due to expire on 26 October – but Ms Sturgeon said this would not signal a return to normality.

The ban on visiting other people’s homes will also remain in place.

And the Scottish government is to introduce a multi-tier system of alert levels similar to that now in force in England, which could potentially see venues in areas with coronavirus outbreaks remain closed.

Ms Sturgeon was giving a video statement to MSPs as she announced that a further 1,351 cases of Covid-19 and 13 deaths were registered in Scotland.

She said the country was in a “precarious” position and facing a “critical moment” in the battle to contain the virus, with “tough decisions” needed from government.

All existing restrictions and guidance are to remain in place for now, and the first minister warned that even the expiry of “tough temporary restrictions” on the hospitality trade would not signal a major change.

She said: “It is important to stress that given the ongoing challenge of Covid, that will not herald a return to complete normality.

“The restrictions on household gatherings for example will remain in place until it is considered safe to ease them.

“And more generally we intend to replace the temporary restrictions with a more strategic approach to managing the pandemic”.

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image captionMs Sturgeon said Scotland was in a “precarious” position

The government is drawing up a system similar to that newly in force in England, with “different tiers of levels of interventions”.

It will include plans to “strengthen and improve the effectiveness” of existing measures, and improve compliance with rules particularly around self-isolation.

Ms Sturgeon also said she could not rule out “having to go further in future”.

The Welsh government is introducing a system of travel restrictions to stop people moving from areas of the UK with higher rates of Covid-19 into areas with lower prevalence of the virus.

Ms Sturgeon said that “needs to be considered” in Scotland, and has written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling for “urgent talks”.

New regulations have also been tabled tightening the rules around face coverings.

The new rules will make it mandatory for workers to wear them while moving around in offices or in staff canteens.

However one rule has been eased, with an exemption introduced to allow couples to take part in marriage and civil partnership ceremonies without wearing masks.

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image captionThe first minister has written to Boris Johnson urging him to adopt a “four nations” approach to travel restrictions

Ms Sturgeon’s speech took place in an entirely virtual meeting, with Holyrood currently in recess, and connection issues meant Ruth Davidson’s question was largely inaudible.

The Scottish Conservative group leader called on the government to introduce more testing in hospitals to stop the virus from spreading there.

Scottish Green co-leader Patrick Harvie echoed this, and called for “regular weekly testing on a much bigger scale”.

The first minister said hospital acquired infections were “a concern”, and that opposition party leaders would be consulted as part of an ongoing review of the testing strategy.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said measures had been introduced “with no engagement of those affected”, which had resulted in “ambiguity and confusion”.

Ms Sturgeon rejected his claims she had “ignored scientific advice”, saying: “I will make no apology, given the nature of the threat we are dealing with right now, of being prepared to take quick, firm and decisive action if we deem that is necessary to save lives.”

Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie pressed the first minister on delays in the contact tracing system, saying it was “alarming” and “dangerous” that in the past week 567 people had waited more than two days to get a call from Test and Protect.

Ms Sturgeon said the system was “working incredibly well” but accepted that “the turnaround time is not as quick as we want it to be”.

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Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus that causes COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus.