Stricter lockdown rules for Borderers from midnight tonight
The Borders, along with the rest of mainland Scotland, will be placed under new lockdown rules from midnight tonight, and the region’s schools will remain closed until at least February 1.
First minister Nicola Sturgeon said that case numbers of Covid-19 are continuing to rise, with 1,905 new cases being recorded in the last 24 hours.
There have been no updates on Borders figures since December 30, when 79 new cases were reported, bringing the region’s total to 1,586.
A new update will be published tomorrow at 2pm.
After recalling Parliament for her latest update today, Mrs Sturgeon said Scotland is in “a race between the vaccine and the virus”, and warned that without stringent new restrictions, NHS capacity could be breached within three weeks, adding that, in respect of hospital beds, NHS Borders was at over 60% of its Covid capacity.
She told MSPs: “There have been two significant game changers in our fight against this virus.
“One, the approval of vaccines, is hugely positive and offers us the way out of this pandemic. But the other – the new faster spreading variant of the virus – is a massive blow.
“Possibly the most simple way of explaining the challenge we face right now is to compare it to a race.
“In one lane we have vaccines – our job is to make sure they run as fast as possible. That’s why the government will be doing everything we can to vaccinate people as quickly as possible.
“But in the other lane is the virus which, as a result of this new variant, has just learned to run much faster and has most definitely picked up pace in the last couple of weeks.
“To ensure that the vaccine wins the race, it is essential to speed up vaccination as far as possible. But to give it the time it needs to get ahead, we must also slow the virus down.
“And because it is now spreading faster, that means even tougher restrictions are necessary.”
The new lockdown will start at midnight for all areas of Scotland currently in level four, including the Borders, and schools will shift to online learning from January 11 for the rest of the month, rather than returning on January 18, except for children of key workers.
Current strict travel restrictions will also remain in place, with no-one allowed to travel into or out of Scotland unless it is for an essential purpose.
The lockdown restrictions are similar to those introduced in March at the start of the pandemic, and the advice to stay at home will again become law.
Ms Sturgeon said: “This means it will only be permissible to leave home for an essential purpose. This will include, for example, caring responsibilities, essential shopping, exercise and being part of an extended household.
“In addition, anyone who is able to work from home, must do so. It will only be a reasonable excuse to leave your home to go to work, if that work cannot be done from home.”
The new restrictions also mean that people who were previously shielding because of other health conditions, and who cannot work from home, should not go into work at all.
However, the frequency of outdoor exercise is not being limited, which means people can “get outdoors for fresh air and exercise as much as possible”.
From tomorrow, a maximum of two people from up to two households will be able to meet outdoors, although children aged 11 and under will not be included in that limit.
South Scotland Labour MSP Colin Smyth said the rise in figures and the new restrictions will come as a “bitter blow”. He said: “This new lockdown won’t come as a surprise to anyone, but will still be a bitter blow for local people, with the extended school closures particularly challenging for families.
“People will be dismayed and worn down by the latest news and will rightly ask why a year into the pandemic, we still do not have regular Covid-19 testing for teachers and senior students in our schools.
“The lack of mass testing for all key workers is just one of the catalogue of failures that means people will feel we are almost back to square one in the fight against the virus.
“It’s increasingly clear that the virus will continue to be out of control until the vaccination programme has been ramped up and rolled out to a lot more people.
“It’s frustrating that people over 80 still haven’t received letters with details of their vaccination appointment and I know there are many anxious people waiting.
“In the meantime, I would urge everyone to follow the tough new rules to minimise the virus spread as best we can until we get to that point.”