Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon has said that it has been “worth it” to impose harsher social restrictions in the country over the festive period to curb coronavirus transmission, despite the “very adverse” effects these have had on the hospitality sector and other businesses.
Speaking to the BBC, Sturgeon said that she was hopeful that Scotland is now “firmly on the downward slope” in terms of cases, with restrictions brought in over December being lifted as of Monday January 24.
As restrictions north of the border ease, nightclubs are set to reopen and large indoor events will be allowed to resume.
Guidance advising adults not to meet up with people from more than three households at any one time will also be removed, as will restrictions on indoor contact sport.
Despite the Omicron wave of Covid having peaked quickly in the UK and now seemingly subsiding, Sturgeon insisted that the stronger measures and their effect on transmission had justified the financial impact on businesses.
She said: “That's not me saying I don't understand and agree that those measures had a very adverse affect on businesses. Hospitality throughout the pandemic has been one of the worst hit sectors.
“But it is not a case of having protective measures and businesses are damaged, or having no proactive measures and everything is fine.
“It is the difference between having protective measures that stem transmission, or allowing transmission to go completely uncontrolled - in which case the impact on business is even greater and even more damaging.”
While some of the harder restrictions brought in over the festive season have now been eased, mandatory mask wearing on public transport and in indoor public places will continue beyond January 24, alongside Scotland’s Covid passport scheme.
Justifying her decision to keep the Covid passport scheme in place, Sturgeon said that large events were still able to proceed and highlighted that it was “not causing anybody any real hardship”.
Sturgeon said: “I don't underplay the impact of any of these measures on businesses and the night-time industry but checking Covid certification is a better alternative to being closed.”
Sturgeon also pointed out that enabling the virus to spread uncontrollably would bring further “economic consequences”, and so rules imposed in the country were proportionate to keep transmission rates down.
However, not everyone in Holyrood shared Sturgeon’s view, with Scottish Conservative MSP Stephen Kerr calling for “evidence” that the additional restrictions were “all worthwhile” as Sturgeon suggested.
Kerr went on to urge the Scottish government to provide compensation to the hospitality sector and night-time economy for “the pain inflicted” upon it.
He said: “Infection rates for this variant of Covid were as great here as in any other part of the UK. What I can’t applaud the Scottish government for doing is dithering in getting the compensation they promised these businesses.
“Some don’t even know how to apply for the money. The Scottish government have a lot to answer for.”
On Saturday, 6,768 new coronavirus cases were recorded in Scotland, which was around 400 less than Friday. 1,458 people were recorded as being in hospital with Covid, which was also a drop-off from Friday’s figure of 1,511.
Away from Covid, Sturgeon also said that “preparatory work” was underway on a legislative timetable for a second referendum on Scottish independence, which is to be set “in the coming weeks”. Sturgeon said that she is aiming for the referendum to be held before the end of next year.
Photo taken from Wikimedia Commons