Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 8th December 2020.

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The First Minister:

On the first part of

Patrick Harvie’s question, it is a simple fact that a very severe lockdown will suppress levels of the virus more and faster than less severe restrictions will, but the more severe the lockdown, the greater the harms in other areas, such as harms to the economy, education, social wellbeing and isolation. We have to strike a balance.

We have been analysing our levels system generally and we think that, overall, the levels in the system are reasonably effective, but we will review the fine detail of those over the next couple of weeks. We think, for example, that there might be a differential effect in the impact of the levels between urban and rural areas and that the same level of restrictions might not have the same impact in an urban area as they will in a rural area. We are also looking at whether the restrictions on hospitality could be modified in any way to get the same effect while making things easier for hospitality, for example, by changing the hours of restriction and allowing alcohol at other times of the day. We therefore continue to try to suppress the virus in as proportionate a way as possible, because I think that everybody accepts that we cannot live indefinitely under the kind of lockdown restrictions that we were under earlier this year.

In terms of the prevalence of the virus and confirmed cases, we have the lowest level in the UK right now, which again does not give me any room or grounds for complacency but suggests that the measures that we have been taking thus far have had an impact. The challenge and priority now is to ensure that that continues to be the case. The Deputy First Minister set out last week the reasons for the decisions around the school holidays; again, like all these decisions, they are finely balanced. Arrangements are in place to take the burden of contact tracing off teaching staff and headteachers in those final days of term. The Deputy First Minister will set out more details of that in due course.