Household visiting will be banned across Scotland, as Nicola Sturgeon moves to limit a key driver of coronavirus infections before the winter.
While Boris Johnson’s statement on Tuesday did not include direct limits on socialising, Scotland’s first minister said she would be extending nationwide from Friday the ban on household visiting already in place in the west of Scotland, where she said the limits were having an impact on infection rates.
In her statement to the Holyrood parliament, the first minister appealed to the Scottish public to comply voluntarily with the regulations from Wednesday.
Later in a televised address, Sturgeon told viewers “I will never find the words to thank all of you enough for the enormous sacrifices you have made so far,” acknowledging that “today must feel like a step backwards”. But she added: “By staying out of other people’s houses for now, we give ourselves the best chance of bringing Covid back under control.”
Emphasising the priorities of keeping schools open and care homes safe while restarting other NHS services, she urged the Scottish public to pull together: “Let’s keep going, try to keep smiling, keep hoping and keep looking out for each other. Be strong, be kind and let’s continue to act out of love and solidarity.”
Sturgeon confirmed that Scotland would also introduce a 10pm curfew on pubs, bars and restaurants following a similar announcement by the UK government earlier. Later on Tuesday, the Welsh first minister, Mark Drakeford, announced similar curfew measures.
The measures in England and Wales come in to force from Thursday, while in Scotland they will not pass into law until the day after. Both Scotland and Wales also confirmed a new £500 payment to support people on low incomes who are asked to self-isolate if they have coronavirus.
Drakeford said: “In the weeks and months ahead of us, there is a very real possibility we could see coronavirus regain a foothold in our local communities, towns and cities. None of us wants to see that happen again. In some parts of south Wales, where we have seen the sharpest rises in cases, there are already even stricter local restrictions in place to protect people’s health. We now need to make that difference across Wales.”
The Welsh government should go further than closing pubs at 10pm in areas where there were more strict coronavirus restrictions, the Plaid Cymru leader, Adam Price, said. He said that in areas of increased restrictions, including Caerphilly and Rhondda Cynon Taf, sales of alcohol from off-licences should be restricted from 6pm and the Welsh government should consider closing pubs indoors or temporarily shutting pubs that do not serve food.
Sturgeon told the Holyrood chamber any effort to reduce the reinfection rate “must address the key driver of infections”, adding: “We also know from test and protect and, from our own experiences, that it is much more difficult to maintain physical distance and have, for example, good ventilation inside our own homes.”
Exceptions to the ban on indoor meetings include for those who have formed extended households, informal childcare and tradespeople.
Indoor and outdoor gatherings in Scotland were restricted to six people from two households two weeks ago, although children do not count towards the total. People will still be able to meet another household in hospitality settings and outdoors, including in private gardens.
Sturgeon also said there would be no limits for children under 12 playing together outdoors, while young people aged 12-18 would also be exempt from the two-household limit and could meet outdoors in groups of up to six.
Addressing teenagers directly, she said: “I know how miserable this is for you and you have been so patient. We are trying to give you as much flexibility as we can. In return, please work with us and do your best to stick to the rules, for everyone’s sake.”
Responding to reports on Monday that her government was considering a far stricter “circuit-breaker” lockdown during the October school holidays, which might include travel restrictions, closing play parks and shutting hairdressers, Sturgeon said she was “actively keeping it under review”.
Sturgeon also repeated Scottish government advice to work from home and encouraged people not to travel overseas during the October holidays. saying: “Please think of the October break as an opportunity to further limit social interaction. And, given that this is a global pandemic, please do not book travel overseas for the October break if it is not essential.”
But, while Johnson said that new restrictions were “likely to remain in force for six months”, Sturgeon offered a more optimistic outlook, saying that “by acting early and substantially, our hope is that these new measures will be in place for a shorter period than would be the case if we waited longer to act”.
She also said she was not shutting the hospitality sector completely because “we are seeking to find a balance between action to suppress the virus and the protection of people’s jobs and livelihoods”.
She added: “If the Scottish government had greater powers to borrow money, or the ability to extend the job retention scheme, for example, it is possible that we would reach a different balance of judgment on some of these issues.”