First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced six changes in coronavirus guidance – including limitations on click and collect services and takeaways.
Announcing the changes at First Minister’s Questions, Ms Sturgeon stressed the changes are necessary to further combat the new variant of the virus, which now accounts for 60% of cases in Scotland.
She said: “Case numbers are still so high – and the new variant is so infectious – that we must be as tough and effective as we can to stop it spreading.
“Today’s measures will help us achieve that. They are a regrettable, but necessary, means to an end.”
From Saturday, Scots will no longer be able to go inside premises to collect their takeaways, and click and collect services will only offer essential items such as food and clothes.
Drinking alcohol outdoors will no longer be legal in areas where it was previously, while the obligation on employers to get their staff to work from home will be strengthened.
Current guidance on when work can be done inside private homes will be put into law, and a loophole in the “stay at home” regulations will be closed.
The first minister said while some of the changes may sound “technical and minor”, taken together they will help to suppress the virus.
The new restrictions come after 79 new deaths in Scotland were recorded in the past 24 hours, and the number of cases rose by almost 2,000.
There were 1,949 new cases reported in the last day – representing 1o.2% of all tests – and 77 more people were taken to hospital with the virus.
Click and Collect
From Saturday, only retailers selling essential items will be allowed to offer click and collect.
Those retailers include sellers of clothes and footwear, baby equipment, homeware and books. All other click and collect services must stop.
The click and collect services that are allowed must offer staggered appointments to avoid potential queues, and access inside premises for collection will not be permitted.
Further details will be set down in regulations and in guidance.
Ms Sturgeon said: “I know that businesses affected by this change will be disappointed, and that many have gone to great lengths to make services as safe as possible, but we must reduce as far as is possible the reasons people have right now for leaving home and coming into contact with others.”
She welcomed the actions of businesses that have voluntarily stopped offering click and collect and tightened the enforcement of face coverings.
In the past few days, supermarkets including Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Asda and Tesco have all said they will not allow people who are not wearing a face covering to access their stores, unless they are medically exempt.
Changes to the takeaway rules have been made to reduce the number of people going inside premises and potentially congregation.
Ms Sturgeon said: “Customers will no longer be permitted to go inside to collect takeaway food or coffee.
“Any outlet wishing to offer takeaway will have to do so from a serving hatch or a doorway.
“This is to reduce the risk of customers coming into contact indoors with each other or with staff.”
Employers and Working From Home
At the moment, the law says people should only leave home to go to work if the work cannot be done from home – with the legal obligation falling on the individual.
If you're an employer:
You have a legal duty to minimise the spread of #coronavirus on your premises.
This includes supporting employees to work from home wherever possible.
If your staff were working from home during the first lockdown, they should be working from home now. pic.twitter.com/amMsMbfyuD
— Scottish Government (@scotgov) January 13, 2021
However, new statutory guidance will be introduced to make clear to employers that they must support their workers to work from home wherever possible.
Ms Sturgeon said: “For all employers, the basic but vital message is this: if your staff were working from home during the first lockdown last year, they should be working from home now and you should be facilitating that.”
Work Inside Houses
This is another change that will put existing guidance into law.
In Level 4 areas, guidance has been issued to say work is only permitted within a private dwelling if it is essential for the upkeep, maintenance and functioning of the household.
This will become legally enforceable.
Different parts of Scotland currently have different laws relating to the consumption of alcohol in outdoor public places.
This change will bring all Level 4 areas into line, with drinking in public outside being against the law.
The first minister said: “That will mean that to buy, for example, a takeaway pint and drinking it outdoors will not be permitted.
“Again, I know this is not a popular move, but it is intended to underline and support the fact we should only be leaving home right now for essential purposes.
“That includes exercise or recreation, but it does not include simple socialising.”
Closing Stay at Home Loophole
The sixth and final change is to close “an apparent loophole”, and will not alter the spirit of the ‘stay at home’ regulations.
At the moment, the law says that people can only leave home for an essential purpose.
However, having left home for an essential purpose, someone could then stay out of their home to do something that is not essential without breaching the law as it stands.
The amendment will clarify that people must not leave or remain outside the home unless for an essential purpose.
This will bring the wording into line with the other UK nations
The first minister said: “I want to be clear that it doesn’t change the range of essential purposes that currently enable people to leave their house nor does it put any time limit on how long you can be outdoors for essential exercise.
“But it does mean that if the police challenge you for being out of the house, doing something that is not essential, it will not be a defence to say that you initially left to do something that was.”