Three Scottish local authorities are to move up to Level 3 of the COVID-19 protection scale following rises in the prevalence of the virus in the past week. East Lothian, Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire will all move this Friday 18 December at 6pm following significant increases in their infection rates.
All other areas remain unchanged in their levels. However, Cabinet agreed today that there will be a review of the protection levels next week (Tuesday, 22 December) in order to allow for any action to be taken in light of further changes in infection data.
A review of the content of each level within the strategic framework is to be undertaken to ensure the system is as robust and as effective as possible.
The First Minister told Parliament:
“Broadly speaking, we think the levels approach has worked well. But we know the winter will put it under greater pressure.
“Over the next three weeks, we will use the experience of the levels system to date to consider whether the specific restrictions in each level require amendment in any way.
“And we also know - and indeed see this in some of the data I have reported today - that case numbers are rising in some areas despite Level 3 restrictions having been in place for some weeks. The time is right to review this and I will report the outcome of that to Parliament after recess.”
Argyll & Bute will remain in Level 2, however households in the outer Argyll islands will experience some easing of restrictions, with the application of the same rules that currently apply in some other islands, allowing up to six people from two households to meet within a home.
With the relaxation of the protection levels for Christmas only one week away, the First Minister also asked people to avoid mixing with other households over Christmas unless absolutely necessary. She also encouraged those who feel they do need to see others to reduce unnecessary contacts as much as possible between now and then to prevent the spread of the virus during the Christmas period.
“This year, there is no doubt that, if possible, the best gift we can give to our family and friends, is to keep our distance, meet outdoors if at all, and keep them safe. And of course for all of us, still, it is essential that we stick to the current rules and guidelines.”
This advice comes amid confirmation that the UK governments are in discussions over whether the 'Christmas relaxations' should be reviewed in light of increased infection levels. In England, the tier review has seen many areas including London move to Tier 3 (the highest alert level).
Levels allocations in Scotland at 6pm on Friday 18 December.
Up to six people from a maximum of two households are allowed to meet in private homes in Level 1 island communities which are not linked by road to the mainland. Islands with road links to the mainland, however, will not be included in this relaxation.
Argyll islands which will qualify from Friday at 6pm are:
The assessment of what level of protection should be applied to each local authority is broadly based on an analysis of five key indicators:
These factors are assessed alongside the advice and recommendations of local public health officials, National Incident Management Team, the Scottish Government’s chief clinical and policy advisors, and consideration of local circumstances, such as: specific COVID-19 outbreaks; travel and work patterns; and the extent to which health services are provided by neighbouring health boards. Final decisions are based on all of these factors. Alongside a table setting out the levels, a detailed analysis paper has also been published setting out the Scottish Government’s assessment and overall decision for each local authority.