Covid in Scotland: What can I do and where can I go under the new rules?


By Claire Diamond
BBC Scotland

Buchanan st

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More than two million people in Scotland are now living under the country’s toughest level of coronavirus restrictions.

The level four rules came into force at 18:00 on Friday in 11 council areas across central and western Scotland. They’ll remain in place until 11 December.

And the new rules are accompanied by a legally-enforceable travel ban, which could see people fined by the police for travelling in or out of council areas in levels three or four unless it’s essential.

BBC Scotland has been finding out the answers to some of your questions about what you can and can’t do under the new restrictions.

Will I still be able to climb mountains? It is my sport and I am an essential worker. It is the only way I can de-stress. James, Glasgow

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If you live in a level three or four area, it depends if you live near any mountains.

The guidelines say that local outdoor informal exercise that starts and finishes at the same place is allowed, as long as it’s within five miles of the boundary of your local authority area.

This used to be guidance, but the travel restriction has now become the law.

During the Scottish government’s briefing on Friday, the first minister said the only reason you could leave your council area to exercise would be for “exercise that you can’t reasonably do within your local authority area” and if you’re only travelling “a very short distance”.

I’ve been placed in level four however my extended household isn’t, can I still visit them? Samantha, Glasgow

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Yes – you can continue to interact with your extended household even if they live in a different level.

Remember, the only people who can form an extended household are those who live alone or only with children, and couples who don’t live together.

My wedding is on 8 December at Gretna Green. It’s only the two of us, but we stay in South Ayrshire – can we still get married? Margaret, South Ayrshire

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South Ayrshire is in level four, Gretna Green is in Dumfries and Galloway – a level two area.

The ban on travelling outwith your council area does include exceptions – and one of them is to travel to attend a wedding.

In Dumfries and Galloway, weddings can take place with a maximum of 20 people providing there is room for social distancing.

Can you travel straight through a level three or four area to reach a lower level area, from a lower level area? Patrick

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Yes – one of the exceptions to the law about entering and leaving level three and four areas is transit through them.

The rules say it’s okay to travel through by road or public transport if your journey begins and ends outside the level three or four area.

What about church? Jeanette, North Lanarkshire

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In level four areas, indoor acts of worship are limited to a maximum of 20 people – as long as there is sufficient space to maintain safe 2m (6ft 6in) metre distancing.

Capacity will need to be reduced to allow 2m distancing between worshippers.

Can we go on holiday to Madeira (a relatively safe destination) from a level three area (Edinburgh)? Is it illegal, or just not recommended? Martin, Edinburgh

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It is not illegal, however it is not recommended.

The Scottish government still strongly advises against unnecessary travel overseas, including to go on holiday.

During Friday’s briefing, Nicola Sturgeon said: “Just because it’s not against the law to travel overseas does not mean we think it’s ok to do it right now.

“This is a global pandemic and it’s for that reason we have in recent months repeatedly advised people not to travel overseas.

“Our advice is not to book overseas travel right now.”

What does this mean for university students travelling home for Christmas? Will we be breaking the new laws? Emily, Edinburgh

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Don’t worry, students will get the chance to head home for the festive season.

Nicola Sturgeon said last week that she was aware students may be tempted to head home before the new restrictions came into force on Friday, but urged them not to – yet.

She said the Scottish government was aware students have had a term like no other.

“If you live in an area moving into level four and are tempted to go home immediately, the Scottish government asks you not to do that.

“Stay in your current accommodation, you will get the chance to go home for Christmas but by waiting longer, the government can ensure you get the offer of testing before you do that,” she said.

How are the levels decided?

Many of the questions we received were about how decisions were made about what level an area is assigned.

The Scottish government has said the broad indicators it uses to decide are:

  • number of Covid cases per 100,000 people over the last week,
  • percentage of positive tests
  • forecast for new cases in the weeks ahead
  • capacity of local hospitals
  • capacity of local intensive care facilities.

Local circumstances, such as whether there are any specific Covid outbreaks in the area, are also taken into consideration.

Travel and work patterns, and the extent to which health services are provided by neighbouring health boards are also considered.

The idea behind having each council assigned to a specific level is that the restrictions are proportionate to the scale of the problem in different parts of the country.

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