Richard Leonard has warned that there is a “real danger of confusion among the public” over the new set of coronavirus restrictions in Scotland that was unveiled by SNP First Minister Nicola Sturgeon today.
The Scottish Labour leader has called on the Scottish government to “provide clarity” to people and businesses after announcing a new tiered framework of Covid-19 rules for the country to help limit the effects of the pandemic.
Sturgeon revealed the measures during her coronavirus briefing today. The new system will see regions placed under one of five grades of restrictions, with classifications being reviewed on a weekly basis.
Leonard said: “With Scotland set to enter into a five-tier system of lockdown restrictions, the need for the Scottish government to provide clarity for the public and businesses is more urgent than ever.
“Scottish Labour supports measures taken to control the spread of the virus, but it is vital that there is clarity over what restrictions people are living under and for how long they can expect to be under these restrictions.”
Under Level 0, most businesses will remain open and eight people from three households can meet indoors. Under Level 1, social interactions indoors will be restricted to six people from two households.
Level 2 restrictions are similar to the current rules that apply across the entirety of Scotland, including limits on the serving of alcohol by the hospitality industry and the ban of all gatherings inside private homes.
Level 3 is similar to the tougher rules currently in place across the central belt of Scotland, in cities such as Glasgow and Edinburgh. Pubs are forced to close and restaurants can remain open under certain rules.
Level 4 is closer to the full lockdown seen across the UK in March, with all non-essential shops being forced to close and only six people from two households being allowed to meet in an outdoor setting.
Businesses in Scotland affected by these new lockdown restrictions will be able to apply for new support grants that will be offered in addition to those already being provided by the UK government.
Responding to the new framework, the Scottish Labour leader added: “With the potential for different areas of the country to be under different regulations, there exists a real danger of confusion among the public, putting health at risk.
“The support for businesses is to be welcomed, but there must be greater support for workers over the coming months. It is of paramount importance that the Scottish and UK governments co-operate to ensure that businesses and workers get the support they need.
“The new testing strategy is necessary – a more extensive and strengthened track and trace system is desperately needed to get us out of a cycle of continued lockdowns, which are damaging to the economy and people’s mental health.”
The latest Covid-19 measures are significantly more strict than those announced by the Scottish government earlier this month, under which pubs and restaurants were not allowed to serve alcohol indoors.
Leonard took a tough line on those coronavirus restrictions at the time and declared that the Holyrood administration needed to stop treating the Scottish hospitality sector like “Sodom and Gomorrah”.
The Scottish Labour leader similarly issued strong words when he tweeted on Thursday evening that it was “tone deaf” for a Scottish public health official to tell people to “get their digital Christmas ready”.
The Scottish government’s national clinical director James Leitch had declared that a “normal” Christmas could not take place this year and advised people to “get their digital Christmas ready”.
Leitch replied to Leonard: “Wow. Tone deaf? I didn’t suggest a miserable Dickensian Christmas Richard. If you listen to the interview I said a large multi-household family gathering doesn’t seem likely”.
The Scottish Labour leader later added: “Word choice always matters, and particularly so in a pandemic. Flippancy and throwaway statements ought to have no place in public health communications.”
There have been 52,615 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Scotland, with 8,218 cases being detected this week, with 1,712 being confirmed on Thursday alone, according to the latest Scottish government figures.