By Bill Heaney
New “lockdown” restrictions imposed in Scotland today by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon could be in place for six months or more.
Although Ms Sturgeon did her best to play that possibility down in parliament, she hasn’t a clue how long this will last. Nobody knows.
Projections and forecasts have been wide of the mark so far and there is no real expectation amongst members of the public that any date put forward now will be any more accurate than what has gone before.
National Clinical Director Professor Jason Leitch told BBC Scotland’s Drivetime that the government has to make choices and schools have been prioritised.
“‘We have decided to keep schools open pretty much at all costs,” he said.
Professor Leitch said the government believes that by restricting the hospitality sector – an across the board 10pm curfew is to be imposed – a little “headroom” can be bought.
He attempted to soften the blow by saying the the pub and restaurant curfew would be across the whole of the UK.
Mike Tibbert, vice president of the Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association (SPAA), has criticised the first minister for telling Scots not to book travel overseas for the October break.
He called the comments “wholly gratuitous, and extremely damaging for the Scottish travel industry”.
Mr Tibbert said: “This year has been catastrophic for travel agents and the entire travel sector and today’s comments could well be the final nail in its coffin.
“It’s utterly short-sighted to consider that this story ends with our members having had no 2020 income, but the stark facts are that, without immediate and targeted stimulus for the travel sector, Scotland will lose its global connectivity as airlines cut routes.
“It’s no idle warning. It is probable, that loss of connections would cause irreversible long-term damage to our whole economy.”
That was a policy suggested by the UK government to interrupt virus spread.
The idea is that a short, sharp period of tightened restrictions for everyone could curb the spread of coronavirus.
However, Ms Sturgeon said: “The Scottish government has not made any decision at this stage to implement such a policy – however, we are actively keeping it under review.”
The big difference is in the household meeting restrictions.
He said the biggest risk of spreading the virus is in the household setting and that is why it has been targeted.
Ms Sturgeon unveiled measures including a nationwide ban on visiting other people’s homes.
Every single health board has had cases of Covid-19 – and that is why a nationwide approach is being taken.
“We need to stop inter-household transmission,” argued the professor, although he accepts the restrictions are harsh.
Children enjoying a day out at The Pokey Hat in Oban.
A children’s charity has said that exempting under 12s from restrictions on outdoor meeting was a welcome move.
Mary Glasgow, chief executive of Children 1st, said: “Making it possible for children under 12 to play together outdoors and allowing young people aged 12 to 18 to meet outdoors in groups of six is essential to protect the social and emotional development of Scotland’s youngsters.”
“Together with the continuation of informal child care arrangements this will lift some of the burden and stress on families, many of whom continue to face the most challenging time of their lives.”
Sofie Ford, who is the owner of Where The Monkey Sleeps in Glasgow, says the restrictions are very challenging for city centre businesses.
The sandwich bar owner says most of her customers are office workers who have not returned yet.
The further restrictions in the west of Scotland have made it difficult for smaller businesses.
“The city centre may be populated by just the chain stores,” she warns. “Small businesses may not survive this.”
Stephen Montgomery, the owner of the Townhead Hotel in Lockerbie and the spokesman for the Scottish Hospitality Group, says the new restrictions are a “disaster, certainly for our sector”.
Mr Montgomery told Drivetime that hospitality takes most of its money at the weekend between 9pm and midnight so it will lose 25% of its takings.
He says his members are facing closures and redundancies, adding “yet again hospitality is being a scapegoat. We’re being punished in every way.”
By Lisa Summers, BBC Scotland Health Correspondent
Opinions among health and science experts have diverged on the best way to get through this critical stage in the pandemic. Some favour a strategy that lets the virus spread more freely but protects the vulnerable. But others disagree.
One infectious diseases consultant told me it is too new and too complex a disease to simply segregate society. At some point older people will have to come into contact with younger people. What about those considered vulnerable that work in the likes of education or healthcare? And we still don’t know enough about the long term effects for younger people who have contracted the disease.
The NHS has been on an emergency footing for most of this year. The additional restrictions should allow hospitals to carry on with the limited amount of routine work it has manged to restart.
Most working in frontline services welcome today’s announcement, as they start to see a rise in hospital admissions, they worry it won’t take much to have an impact on everything else they are trying to do.
But stricter measures also have consequences for mental health. Psychiatrists have already warned about the serious implications of isolation and loneliness on anxiety levels in both the young and old. Even protecting the health service is a difficult balancing act.
Nic Wood, who owns the Signature pub group, says there was an inevitability about the first minister’s announcement.
But he adds: “I have to ask the question: Where is the evidence for this?”
Mr Wood tells BBC Radio Scotland’s Drivetime he is not aware of any cases among his contacts in the industry.
He says: “I guess what people need to remember is they are coming to a controlled environment for people to interact.
“We’ve got all these safeguards in place to provide a low risk and a safe environment for people to come to.
“I’m not really sure why we are the ones being penalised.”
Mr Wood, who has 22 bars across Scotland, adds that he does not accept the logic behind the curfew and believes bars are being used as “the scapegoat”.
I believe the 10pm is simply going to encourage private parties and they are not regulated and there is no guidelines that are there for them. If pubs shut at 10 o’clock what is really to stop people from saying ‘Do you fancy another one? Let’s just go back to mine and have another beer back there.’
Children and young people will be exempt from some of the lockdown restrictions on group gatherings announced by the first minister.
Nicola Sturgeon told MSPs that under-12s will not be included in the limit of six people meeting outdoors and the limit of two households.
It means there will be no restriction on “the ability of younger children to play together outside”.
Those aged 12 to 18 will be exempt from the two household limit outdoors.
Ms Sturgeon said they would be able to meet outdoors in groups of up to six – but “we will need to monitor this carefully”.
“Let me stress, this is outdoors only,” the first minister confirmed.
The ban on meeting indoors in houses applies to all ages, with some speciifc exemptions.
Nights out at the pub will be restricted to a 10pm curfew.
In summary, the first minister has announced new restrictions aimed at stopping the spread of coronavirus across Scotland.
In a statement at Holyrood, Nicola Sturgeon unveiled measures including a nationwide ban on visiting other people’s homes and a 10pm curfew for pubs and restaurants.
With coronavirus cases on the rise, the Scottish government has judged these new restrictions will provide the best chance of avoiding tougher or longer lasting measures further down the line.
A ban on households meeting in homes is already in place in the west of Scotland. Now it’s being rolled out across Scotland.