Argyll and Bute in lockdown amid coronavirus crisis

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the meeting would give 'food for thought' to take back to Edinburgh. 16_B35_cabinetquestiontime05
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

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As coronavirus continues to spread in Scotland, stringent new curbs have been introduced on life across the country.

Many cafes, shops and other facilities across Argyll had already closed or announced their intention to suspend operation ahead of the announcement by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on the evening of Monday March 23.

The extreme measures, which include a requirement to distance ourselves from others, are all part of a national effort to slow the spread of the virus so that the UK’s health services can cope during the outbreak.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon called for an immediate stop to public gatherings of more than two people in Scotland.

Following a meeting of the UK Government’s COBR committee, an effective ban is in place on gatherings in public places, excluding household groups or in a work-related capacity.

All non-essential shops should now be closed, as well as public spaces such as libraries, communal parks and playgrounds, and places of worship. The ban extends to ceremonial social events, such as weddings and christenings, with the exception of funerals which will be restricted to immediate family only.

From tonight (March 23) the only permissible reasons to leave your home are as follows:

  • To shop for basic necessities and that should be limited to once a day
  • To take exercise once a day – but alone or with your own household, not in groups
  • For medical reasons or to care for a vulnerable person
  • To travel to essential work if that cannot be done at home. Further guidance to employers is pending.

In agreement with Police Scotland, officers will be permitted to deploy ‘soft enforcement’ of these measures, prior to the Scottish Government taking legal powers from Thursday March 26.

The First Minister reiterated guidance of the Scottish Government for people to stay home and only venture outside when absolutely necessary. In line with existing advice, non-essential retail units are now required to close and shopping for basic necessities kept to a minimum.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: ‘Some of what is being outlined is already active advice in Scotland. But I want to ensure that the latest position is set out clearly and comprehensively.

‘Let me be blunt: these stringent restrictions on our normal day to day lives are difficult and unprecedented but they are essential for the protection of all of us. What I am telling people across Scotland that they now must do to help us fight this virus is stay at home.

‘Gatherings of more than two people in public will be prohibited – unless it is a household group or work related. Social events must not take place. That includes weddings and christenings. The exception is funerals but we are asking – in what is undoubtedly the hardest thing I will say tonight – that they are restricted to immediate family only.

‘I fully expect the vast majority of people will do the right thing and for that, we thank you. Later this week emergency legislation will give us powers of enforcement and we will use them if necessary. But from tonight, if the police find people or premises flouting these rules they will give strong advice to cease and do the right thing. Within days they will be able to follow that up with enforcement.

‘All of this will take effect immediately. It is effectively what some have described as a lockdown. So please do not think any of this is being done lightly – it is not. They are essential to slow down the spread of this virus, to reduce the peak impact of it, to prevent our NHS being overwhelmed – they are essential to save lives.’

Following the announcement Argyll and Bute Council commented via Twitter that this was ‘A very clear message from both The UK and Scottish Government tonight’.

Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell said: ‘The rules and the need are very clear. The consequences for ignoring the rules and denying the need are also very clear.

‘Stay at home. Leave for exercise and essential supplies once a day max if you really have to. No gatherings. Only essential work that cannot be done remotely.’