Coronavirus restrictions in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire will be tightened up from Friday.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed that both regions will be moving up to Level 3 due to a rise in cases.
Cases in Aberdeen have increased by more than 50% in the last week, from 76 cases per 100,000 to 122.
Case positivity jumped from 3.9% to 6.1%.
The increase in Aberdeenshire has not been as sharp, but cases are still on the rise.
East Lothian has also been moved up to Level 3 – just a week after restrictions were eased.
Level 3 restrictions ‘necessary’ to bring virus under control
Ms Sturgeon said: “We have been monitoring the situation in both Aberdeen city and Aberdeenshire very closely and have concluded that tougher restrictions do now need to be applied.
“It is our judgement that Level 3 restrictions are necessary to bring the situation in both Aberdeen city and Aberdeenshire back under control.
“I know that the move to Level 3 for East Lothian, Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire – and the continuation of it in many other areas – involves real and continued difficulties for many businesses, particularly in the hospitality sector.
“However these measures are in our view essential to get and keep the virus under control.
“It is also worth pointing out that we are not alone in Scotland in facing these challenges just now.
“In large parts of England, hospitality is closed completely. And the whole of Wales is now under restrictions similar to our Level three.
“However, I know this brings no comfort to those directly affect, the government will do all we can to provide support.”
Level three restrictions
Level 3 means that hospitality businesses in the regions will have to close at 6pm and cannot serve alcohol at all.
Travel out of the area, unless for work or other essential purposes, is also not permitted.
Ms Sturgeon announced there will be a further review next week due to the “rising cases” across the country. Previously, today had been the last planned one of the year.
Moray and the Highlands and islands remain in level one.
Ms Sturgeon urged “the utmost caution” in meeting over Christmas as discussions are due later today on the easing of restrictions.
Following a joint call from the British Medical Journal and Health Service Journal, the leaders of the devolved administrations and the UK Government will discuss the changes.
Under the current plans, eight people from three households will be able to mix indoors between December 23 and December 27.
Ms Sturgeon said: “There will be a four-nations discussion later today to take stock of recent developments.
“But, for now, I would urge the utmost caution.
“If you can avoid mixing with other households over Christmas, especially indoors, please do.
“But if you feel it essential to do so – and we have tried to be pragmatic in recognising that some people will – then please reduce your unnecessary contacts as much as possible between now and then.”
New virus variant
Ms Sturgeon also mentioned the new variant of Covid that was mentioned by UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock yesterday.
She added: “I’ve been advised that nine cases of this new variant are in Scotland, all these cases are in Greater Glasgow and Clyde.
“No evidence at the moment to say this will cause the virus to spread more rapidly.”
Scottish Conservative MSP for Aberdeenshire West, Alexander Burnett, was “disappointed” to see the region being moved up a level.
He said: “It’s extremely disappointing Aberdeenshire has been moved into Level 3 so close to Christmas.
“Our hospitality sector has been decimated by repeated closures and this is likely to hurt even more during what is supposed to be one of their busiest periods.
“Businesses in the region have done everything they can to ensure safety and compliance with the regulations.
“Local control measures have been put in place in Aberdeenshire which have meant figures have started to steady in the last few days.
“Financial support must now be put in place by the SNP Government for our vital hospitality sector which has been dealt yet another blow.”