Clarity and not confusion. That’s what the Scottish Government wants to see now in regard to the latest restrictions being placed on the electorate as the Covid-19 crisis edges into its seventh month. So who better to cross the i’s and dot the t’s than the First Minister herself. This is precisely what she had to say at Holyrood this afternoon.

Pubs, restaurants and meeting up with friends and family take a heavy hit as restrictions are strictly applied

Dumbarton’s busiest and best pub, the Glencairn Lounge in Bridge Street, which serves food and drink, is having to brace itself for a heavy hit with the introduction of more restrictions on opening hours. Licensee Tom Murray is pictured with MSPs Jackie Baillie and Neil Bibby.

By Nicola Sturgeon

The measures on hospitality are intended to be in force for 16 days, from this Friday at 6 pm to Sunday 25 October inclusive—in other words, across the next two weeks and three weekends.

First, with the exception of five health board areas, pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes will be able to operate indoors on the following very restricted basis only.

They can operate during the day, from 6 am to 6 pm, for the service of food and non-alcoholic drinks only. Hotel restaurants will be able to operate beyond 6 pm, but only for residents and without alcohol.

The reason why we are not closing indoor hospitality completely is that we know the benefits in terms of reducing loneliness and isolation and of giving people, particularly those who live alone, somewhere that they can meet a friend for a coffee and a chat.

However, the restrictions will be strictly applied, and all the current regulations and the limits on meeting a maximum of six people from two households in indoor public places will still apply.

Again with the exception of the central belt areas, bars, pubs, restaurants and cafes can continue to serve alcohol outdoors up to the existing curfew time of 10 pm, and subject to the 6 and 2 rule on group size.

It is important to stress that there will be an exemption to those rules in all parts of Scotland for celebrations that are associated with specific life events, such as weddings that are already booked and funerals. The current rules for those will continue to apply.

Those are the new measures that will take effect nationwide. However, because of the significantly higher levels of infection in the central belt, we are introducing stricter restrictions in the following five health board areas: Greater Glasgow and Clyde, which covers West Dunbartonshire, Helensburgh, Cardross and the Rosneath Peninsula, Lanarkshire, Ayrshire and Arran, Lothian and Forth Valley.

In those areas, all licensed premises—with the exception of hotels, which will remain open for residents—will be required to close indoors and outdoors, though takeaways will be permitted.

Cafes that do not have an alcohol licence will be able to stay open until 6 pm to prevent social isolation. In addition, snooker and pool halls, indoor bowling alleys, casinos and bingo halls will close in those areas for two weeks, from 10 October.

Contact sports for people aged 18 and over will be suspended for the next two weeks, with an exception for professional sports. Indoor group exercise activities will not be allowed, although the current rules will remain in place for under-18s.

Gyms can remain open for individual exercise. Outdoor live events will not be permitted in those five regions for the next two weeks.

Finally, we are asking people who live in those five health board areas to avoid public transport unless it is absolutely necessary—for example, for going to school or to work, if homeworking is not an option.

We are not imposing mandatory travel restrictions at this stage and, specifically, we are not insisting that people cancel any half-term breaks that they have planned. However, in general, we are advising people who live in West Dunbartonshire and South Argyll not to travel outside the health board area that they live in if they do not need to.

Likewise, people in other parts of Scotland should not travel to these areas if they do not need to. More detail of all that I have just set out will be available on the Scottish Government website.

I want to set out some of the reasoning behind those decisions and, in particular, the focus on hospitality.

Petra McMillan of the Dumbuck and Cara and Milan from La Barca in Helelnsburgh.

I know that the vast majority of pubs, bars and restaurants have worked exceptionally hard over the past few months to ensure the safety of their staff and customers.

I am deeply grateful to them for that, and I know how tough the albeit temporary restrictions are for the hospitality sector. However, the evidence paper that has been published today sets out why such settings present a particular risk.

The R number seems to have risen above 1 approximately three weeks after the hospitality sector opened up and, of those people contacted by test and protect, more than one fifth report having visited a hospitality setting.

That does not absolutely mean that that is where those people got the virus, but it shows that such settings pose a particular risk of transmitting the virus.

That makes sense from what we know about how the virus is spread. Indoor environments, where different households from different age groups can mix, inevitably present a risk of transmission.

That risk can be increased, in some hospitality premises, if good ventilation is difficult and if it is hard to control the movement of people. Of course, the presence of alcohol can affect people’s willingness to physically distance.

For all those reasons, significantly restricting licensed premises for 16 days temporarily removes one of the key opportunities that the virus has to jump from household to household—we have already restricted the other key opportunity of transmission, which is within our homes.

Restricting those opportunities is an essential part of our efforts to get the R number back below 1.

It is worth noting that many other countries are now introducing restrictions on hospitality, no doubt for the same reasons. Ireland, France, Germany and Belgium have announced a variety of measures over the past few days.

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