Mainland Scotland will go back into full lockdown from midnight, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed.
Schools will remain shut until at least February 1, and all workers who can do their jobs from home must do so.
People should stay at home unless it is for “essential” care, shopping, exercise or being part of an extended household.
Unlike last year’s lockdown, there is no limit on exercise but Ms Sturgeon urged people to stay as close to home as possible and announced outdoor meet-ups are now restricted to two people from two households.
The restrictions apply to all those currently in Level 4, although the Scottish Government is keeping the islands – who are in Level 3 – under close review.
Ms Sturgeon said the decision – taken after an urgent Cabinet meeting this morning – had not been taken lightly, but described it as a race between the vaccination programme and the new strain of Covid, which has caused a spike in cases.
New variant ‘70% more transmissable’
The first minister said: “The advice of our clinical advisers is clear that the increased transmissibility of the new variant means that the current Level 4 measures may not be sufficient to bring the R number back below one.
“It is essential that we further limit interaction between different households to stem the spread and bring the situation back under control, while we vaccinate more people.
“In short, we must return for a period to a situation much closer to the lockdown of last March.”
Scotland recorded 1,905 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, down from 2,464 reported on Sunday.
However, according to modelling by the Scottish Government, taking now action could result in Covid-19 capacity in hospitals being overrun within “three or four weeks”.
Ms Sturgeon – who estimated Scotland’s cases are about four weeks behind London and the south-east of England – said: “We have an opportunity in Scotland to avert the situation here deteriorating to that extent.
“But we must act quickly and decisively.
“It is no exaggeration to say that I am more concerned about the situation we face now than I have been at any time since March last year.”
Schools to remain closed until February 1
It is hoped that keeping schools closed to pupils will drive down transmission rates.
Ms Sturgeon said the impact of the new variant of Covid-19 on young people was not yet clear.
Ms Sturgeon said: “Just as the last places we ever want to close are schools and nurseries, so it is the case that schools and nurseries will be the first places we want to reopen as we re-emerge from this latest lockdown.
“They remain our priority.”
Schools and nurseries will remain open to the children of key workers and those classed as vulnerable.
She added that work is being done to see if school and childcare staff can be made a priority for vaccination.
Shielding workers to be given ‘fit note’ from CMO
Meanwhile, those who are shielding have been told not to go into work.
Dr Gregor Smith, Scotland’s chief medical officer, is currently writing to all those previously shielding to excuse them from work.
Ms Sturgeon said: “If you were shielding and you cannot work from home, our clear advice now is that you should not go into work at all.
“The chief medical officer is writing to everyone who falls into this category, and his letter will count as a fit note for those who need it.”
She added that it is hoped that most vulnerable Scots and those over the age of 50 will have had their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine by May.
Churches to close and wedding numbers restricted
Ms Sturgeon said that it was with “real regret” that places of worship must close except for broadcasting a service, or for funerals, weddings or civil ceremonies.
Funeral numbers will be restricted to 20, and wakes are no longer permitted.
Weddings and civil ceremonies have been restricted to five people.
Travel ban message reinforced
The first minister used her parliamentary statement to remind people they should not be travelling between regions.
“If you are in a Level 4 area you cannot leave other than for essential purposes, and you should stay as close to home as possible and away from crowded places,” she added.
As part of the tightening up of essential services, ski centres must close.
Stick with it
Urging people to follow the rules and take them “just as seriously” as last March, Ms Sturgeon said she knew the next few weeks will be “incredibly tough”.
“I’m sorry to ask for further sacrifices, after nine long months of them. But these sacrifices are necessary,” she said.
“The difference between now and last March is that with the help of vaccines, we now have confidence that they will pave the way to brighter days ahead. So – for everyone’s sake and safety – please stick with it and stay home.”