Pubs, restaurants, gyms, and non-essential shops will close in 11 council areas of Scotland, including Glasgow, from Friday, in a bid to reduce pressure on the health system, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced.

The country’s toughest ‘tier-four’ Covid-19 restrictions will affect some 2.3 million people across west and central Scotland, and are set to remain in place until December 11.

The measures include banning people from meeting in each other’s houses, and limiting the maximum group size for an indoor gathering in a public place to six.

Schools will remain open and takeaway outlets can continue to operate, while two households can meet outdoors in a private garden or public place such as a park in a maximum group size of six.

From Friday, it will also be illegal to travel between tier-three and tier-four areas, except for a limited number of essential purposes. 

Outlining the tough new measures on Tuesday, Sturgeon said the “short and sharp” lockdown was intended to “have an impact in advance of Christmas” and was “necessary” to protect “ourselves and those we love,” as well as reduce pressure on the National Health Service. 

“The infection rate in all of these areas remains stubbornly and worryingly high,” the Scottish National Party leader told Members of the Scottish Parliament.

At these levels, we simply do not have the assurance we need that hospital and ICU [Intensive Care Unit] services will be able to cope as we go deeper into winter.

Scottish Conservatives leader Ruth Davidson described the new measures as a “hammer blow” for businesses, but said that if there was to be a longer-term benefit, she would accept the move “at face value.” 

The tier-four measures will be imposed in the City of Glasgow, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire, East Renfrewshire, East Ayrshire, South Ayrshire, East Dunbartonshire, West Dunbartonshire, Stirling, and West Lothian. Other parts of the country will be under the less strict tier-three Covid-19 restrictions. 

Sturgeon said on Tuesday that 1,249 people were currently hospitalized with Covid-19 in Scotland – an increase of 22 from a day prior. She added that 37 patients who had tested positive over the previous 28 days had died, taking the total death toll in Scotland from the virus since the start of the pandemic in March to 3,323. 

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