Cross-border travel is banned to prevent spread of new strain
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced a severe tightening of coronavirus restrictions that mean Shetland families will only be able to form a “bubble” on Christmas Day.
Her “firm and decisive” action comes in the light of evidence about a new strain of the virus which is said to spread up to 70 per cent quicker.
Ms Sturgeon said the new strain had “seeded” in Scotland and preventative action was required to stop it spreading at the rate it had been in other parts of the UK.
She said she was sorry to introduce the new restrictions which will force many to rethink their plans for the festive period. Previously, up to eight people from three households were permitted to form a “bubble” between 23rd December and 27th December.
That is now restricted to only 25th December. From Boxing Day Shetland will enter level three of the Scottish coronavirus restrictions.
Ms Sturgeon said: “We will allow Christmas Day to go ahead” – however, she urged people to only use the flexibility to form bubbles if they felt it was essential.
And the first minister issued a message that anyone who had been “letting your guard down” should raise it again.
Ms Sturgeon added: “The advice is still not to mix indoors with other households”.
Anyone with caring responsibilities will still be able to visit those they are looking after.
Ms Sturgeon also introduced a travel ban aimed at stopping the spread of the new strain from others parts of the UK.
It means cross border travel for anything other than the “most essential” reasons is prohibited.
Restrictions related to international travel were being urgently reviewed, Ms Sturgeon said, with an update expected early next week.
And from Boxing Day Shetland will be moved into level three of Scotland’s coronavirus restrictions. Only Shetland, Orkney and some other islands will be at that level, with all mainland Scotland elevated to the highest level four.
The new restrictions announced on Saturday will also have implications for for families with school-age children.
Schools will remain closed until 11th January when only the children of key workers and the most vulnerable will be allowed to return. For all other pupils it will be online learning only until at least 18th January, when the aim is for schools to reopen fully, though that remains under review.