Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland and Leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP)announced the heightened restrictions this afternoon which include the legal stay-at-home order from 12am – just like last March – with £60 minimum fines for breaches. It comes after there were another 1,905 new Covid cases registered in Scotland overnight. The Scottish Government released the worrying figures.

The Scottish Cabinet met early today to discuss whether or not the country should return to a full March-style lockdown. Speaking at a press conference today, Sturgeon said the virus had ‘learned to run faster’ due to a new highly infectious mutation. Stating that the new variant already accounts for more than half of all cases in Scotland, she said:

‘I can confirm now in summary, that we have decided to introduce, from midnight tonight, for the duration of January, a legal requirement to stay at home, except for essential purposes.’

Sturgeon went on to say the ‘stay at home’ messaging would become law in Scotland from tomorrow. Essential purposes in which people can leave their homes include caring responsibilities, essential shopping, exercise and being a part of a extended household.

Nicola Sturgeon announcing restrictions

She stated that anyone who is able to work from home ‘must do so’ and said it would only be a reasonable excuse to continue travelling for a job if the work cannot be done at home.

The frequency of outside exercise is not being limited, but people will only be allowed to meet one other person from a different household at a time under the rules.

Schools will be closed to the majority of pupils until February 1, with the measures reviewed on January 18, Sturgeon went on.

Children of key workers will be among the exceptions. Sturgeon said the overall level of community transmission remained too high for schools to safely reopen, and said there was still ‘significant uncertainty’ about the impact of the new variant of Covid on transmission among children. She went on: ‘We therefore have to adopt a cautious approach at this stage and that’s why most pupils will be learning online for at least the rest of the month. I know that remote learning presents significant challenges for teachers, schools, parents and young people, and we will work to support children and parents throughout this.’

Places of worship will also close during this period, except for broadcasting, funerals, civil service ceremonies and weddings.

Today there were 1,905 new Covid cases recorded in Scotland, while government figures showed that 15% tests taken returned positive results.

No new deaths from the virus were reported, although this is due a delay in records over the weekend.

As of December 31, Scotland’s death toll for the virus stands at 4,578. On Sunday Sturgeon described the rapid increase in infections as of ‘very serious concern’. She said:

‘All decisions just now are tough, with tough impacts. Vaccines give us way out, but this new strain makes the period between now and then the most dangerous since start of pandemic. ‘So the responsibility of government must be to act quickly and decisively in the national interest.’

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - JANUARY 04: Members of the public walk through a deserted Edinburgh City Centre on January 4, 2021 in Edinburgh, Scotland. The Scottish Parliament will be recalled this afternoon to consider further coronavirus measure in an attempt to tackle the rapid increase in cases. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

On 3, January 2021 Nicola Sturgeon wrote on her twitter page: “The rapid increase in Covid cases, driven by the new variant, is of v serious concern. The steep increases & severe NHS pressure being experienced in other parts of the UK is a sign of what may lie ahead. So we must take all steps to slow spread while vaccination progresses”.

We, like other countries, are in a race between this faster spreading strain of Covid and the vaccination programme. As we work to vaccinate as quickly as possible, we must also do more to slow down the virus – to save lives & help the NHS care for all those who need it.

Following a meeting of @scotgov resilience committee y’day to assess latest situation, the Cabinet will meet tomorrow am to consider further action to limit spread & I’ve asked for @ScotParl to be recalled tomorrow afternoon so that I can set out our decisions in a statement.

All decisions just now are tough, with tough impacts. Vaccines give us way out, but this new strain makes the period between now & then the most dangerous since start of pandemic. So the responsibility of government must be to act quickly & decisively in the national interest

For now, please continue to take Covid seriously – it is a real threat to life and health and, if it runs out of control, it damages the economy more too. Please stay at home as much as possible and avoid non essential interactions with other households. Thank you.