Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Monday the country will impose a total lockdown for the rest of January as a surging number of COVID-19 cases threatens to overwhelm hospitals.
Speaking before parliament, Sturgeon said she is more concerned about the current situation than at any time since the pandemic began last March. She said the surge is putting pressure on health care facilities, adding: "In fact, our modeling suggests that without further intervention, we could breach inpatient COVID capacity within three or four weeks.”
She said effective midnight Monday, all residents will be required to stay home except for essential purposes. There will also be no travel allowed in or out of Scotland during that time, and no more than two people from up to two households will be able to meet outdoors.
Sturgeon said Scotland is seeing a “steeply rising trend of infections,” with more than 1,900 new cases over the previous 24 hours, and an overall positivity rate of about 15%.
She blamed the surge largely on the new COVID-19 variant, identified last month in the south of Britain. The first minister said the new variant spreads as much as 70% faster than the original strain and accounts for nearly half of new cases in Scotland.
She called the new variant a “massive blow” to the fight against the virus and said the simplest way to describe the challenge they face is to compare it to a race, with the vaccine in one lane and the virus in the other, with the virus currently much faster.
She said, “To ensure that the vaccine wins this race, it is essential to speed up vaccination as far as possible but to give it the time it needs to get ahead, we must also slow the virus down. And because it is now spreading faster, that means even tougher restrictions are necessary."