Restaurants, pubs and bars in 11 council areas in Scotland, including Glasgow, will be required to close from 6pm on Friday, the Scottish government has announced.
Areas in western and central Scotland have been placed in the country’s highest Covid alert level in an effort to suppress the virus in the lead up to Christmas.
From 6pm this Friday (20 November) Glasgow, Stirling, East Ayrshire, South Ayrshire, East Dunbartonshire, West Dunbartonshire, East Renfrewshire, Renfrewshire, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire and West Lothian will be placed into level four.
Hospitality outlets must close, but can still offer takeaways, and all non-essential retail operations must close. The new restrictions affect over two million people.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has also implemented a ban on people, who live in an area in level three or four, travelling outside their locality, except for essential purposes such as work and care giving.
Sturgeon explained that the decision had been made in order to relieve pressure on health services.
The First Minister said: “In the seven days up to Friday, Scotland as a whole had just over 140 new cases of Covid per 100,000 people. All of the areas moving to Level 4 were above that level. We simply do not have the assurance we need that hospital and ICU services will be able to cope as we go deeper into winter.”
The 11 council areas will be placed in level four for three weeks after which their alert level will be assessed again.
Sturgeon added: “I know people are frustrated that other restrictions have remained in place longer than planned but level four is intended to be short and sharp. And in this situation, it is specifically intended to have an impact in advance of Christmas and the most winter challenging period.”
Reacting to the news, the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) said the move effectively signals permanent closure for many licensed hospitality premises.
In a survey of 600 pubs and bars, the SLTA estates that as many as 50,000 jobs could be lost, with as many as two-thirds of the businesses it represents going under in the weeks ahead.
SLTA managing director, Colin Wilkinson, called it the “worst possible news”. He highlighted that even in levels two and three, operators have decided to close down “as it is simply unviable to operate with the current restrictions on the sale of alcohol and the operating times that are currently in place.”
“There has been no meaningful engagement with our industry and there has been no evidence to prove that the virus is being spread within the licensed hospitality sector,” he said. “We reiterate that we support the goal of suppressing the virus, but we also reiterate that we are a sector in crisis with hundreds of businesses facing permanent closure and thousands of jobs hanging in the balance.”
J.D. Wetherspoon has already closed three-quarters of its Scottish pub estate, sites that will remain closed until measures are eased. The Gleneagles Hotel in the Perth and Kinross council area has also announced that it will remain closed for 11 weeks after the region was moved into level three.