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Scotland’s new five-level system comes into effect – here’s how it works

Written by on 2 November 2020

Scotland’s new five-tier restrictions to tackle the coronavirus pandemic are now in force.

The measures affect Scots by local authority rather than health board area – with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warning the Scottish government will not hesitate to increase the level of protection either locally or nationally if required.

The levels have been graded from zero to four, with no local authorities placed under the toughest measures at the highest level for now.

Levels 1, 2 and 3 are broadly comparable to the three tiers of restrictions currently set in England – before their national lockdown later this week – while Level 0 is similar to what was in place across Scotland in August when the virus was suppressed to very low levels.

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Nicola Sturgeon said only restrictions ‘absolutely necessary’ would be imposed

The central belt – including Edinburgh, Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Stirling and Falkirk – are joined by Dundee and Ayrshire in Level 3.

Aberdeenshire, Aberdeen, Fife, the Borders, Dumfries and Galloway, Argyll and Bute, Perth and Kinross and Angus are in Level 2 – with the socialising rules remaining the same as Level 3.

Elsewhere, Highland, Moray, Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland have been assessed as Level 1.

A postcode checker has been launched to help people check where their area is in the new system.

The levels explained in detail:

Level 0

This would be “the closest to normality we can safely get to without more effective treatments for COVID or a vaccine against COVID”, the first minister said.

Eight people from three households can meet indoors and most businesses can open with safety measures in place.

It is most comparable to Scotland’s situation in August when the virus was “very suppressed but still a threat”.

First minister Nicola Sturgeon clashes with Conservative leader Ruth Davidson
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MSPs must approve the plans first

Level 1

Indoor household meetings are prohibited, but six people from two households can meet indoors in a public place such as a cafe or restaurant.

This would see a “reasonable degree of normality” remain and is similar to the situation in mid-September when “cases started to rise again but prevalence was still fairly low”.

Level 2

This applies when transmission of the virus is higher and rising and would see limitations on hospitality businesses and no gatherings allowed in people’s homes.

It is similar to current restrictions outside the central belt.

Restrictions started in parts of Scotland on Friday
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Hospitality firms would be affected in areas in Level 2 and above

Level 3

This would see much of hospitality closed, and similar to the measures in place in the central belt.

But Ms Sturgeon said a crucial difference would be that restaurants can partially open.

Level 4

Non-essential shops must close and it is a sign the NHS is at risk of being overwhelmed.

Six people from two households can meet outdoors and the government will seek to keep manufacturing and construction firms open.

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - AUGUST 26: An employee directs members of the public drive into a coronavirus testing centre at Glasgow Airport on August 26, 2020 in Glasgow, Scotland Covid - 19 testing capacity is to be increased in Scotland following a spike in demand, the First Minister announced that new mobile testing units would be deployed later this week. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
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Level 4 is only for regions where the NHS may be overwhelmed

Ms Sturgeon said the new approach would enable the Scottish government “to respond quickly and flexibly as required, particularly in areas where we are concerned about the rate at which the virus is spreading”.

She added: “It is important we all comply with the rules in our area if we are to successfully suppress the virus, avoid the need for tighter restrictions and protect the NHS.

“It’s crucial that everyone knows what level their local authority is in and that they stick to the rules in their area.

“The postcode tracker will be a vital tool in helping to ensure this happens.”