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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirms the Highlands is to remain at Tier One but household visits remain banned as Scotland passes 5000 deaths linked to Covid

By Scott Maclennan

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

The Highlands is to remain at the Tier One level of Covid restrictions but household visiting remains banned, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed.

Speaking this afternoon in Holyrood, Ms Sturgeon also revealed that the death toll from the virus, confirmed by the National Records of Scotland, has surpassed the 5000 mark.

Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles council areas will also remain at level one but will be permitted household visits.

In contrast, with Covid cases stabilising in the Central Belt at “stubbornly and worryingly high levels” 11 council areas there will move to level four restrictions, which are the strictest available under the Tier system.

Ms Sturgeon also issued a warning that if there was an influx of people from Level Four areas to partsof the country with fewer restrictions then those areas too could be placed under stricter regimes.

“It is very likely that the death tolls on the wider measures recorded by the National Records of Scotland will pass 5000. That is a sombre and deeply distressing milestone,” she said.

“From the start of next week two areas will move down on the scale from level three to level two. However, 11 local authorities will move from 11 three to level four for a strictly limited period.

“These decisions will give us the best possible chance in a limited and careful way of being able to ease restrictions in all parts of Scotland for Christmas. As difficult as all these decisions are, an end is now within our grasp but we must get through the next few months.

“Starting with the local authorities that will remain within the current level. Orkney, Shetland, and the Western Isles, Moray and the Highlands will remain at Level One.

“For now in common with the rest of the country we are asking people in Moray and the Highlands not to visit each other’s houses but for all other areas in Level One it will be permissible to meet outdoors with eight people from a maximum of three households.

“That leads me to a general point and indeed to a plea for everyone living in Level One and Two areas means you can ease up – on the contrary having fewer restrictions means the virus has more opportunities to spread, so it is vital that you abide by all the rules.”

The 11 councils at level four are – Glasgow City; Renfrewshire; East Renfrewshire; East Dunbartonshire; West Dunbartonshire; South Lanarkshire; North Lanarkshire; Stirling; East and South Ayrshire and West Lothian.

The First Minister argued that this was the best way to have a hope of potentially bringing down infection levels and with it the restrictions for Christmas: “The level system is still allowing us to avoid a national one size fits all approach such as in place in England.

“In my view that is important because it allows people and businesses in lower prevalence areas like the Highlands are not forced into level four restrictions like in higher prevalence areas like Glasgow.

“But the ability to maintain that targeted approach depends on us not spreading the virus from low to high prevalence areas and that becomes even more important with parts of the country in level four.

“To put it bluntly, and we will require to monitor this, if we see people from east or south Ayrshire are visiting places in north Ayrshire or that people in Glasgow are going to places in Inverclyde we would have no choice but to consider Level Four for these areas too and we don’t want to do that.

“I can confirm that the guidance that has been in place for the last three weeks will become law from Friday – that means people in Level Three or Four areas must not travel outside their own council area must not travel outside their own council areas.”

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