Last reviewed 4 January 2021

On 4 January 2021, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon decided that the situation with regard to increased rates of coronavirus infection warranted the recall of the Scottish Government from its Christmas recess.

She addressed MSPs to tell them that, of the 13,810 new tests carried out on the previous day, more than 1900 (15%) were positive (see here for full details of the current state of the pandemic in Scotland).

To combat the new, faster-spreading, strain of the virus, Ms Sturgeon said, her Government would introduce a legal requirement from midnight on 4 January ordering people across Scotland to stay at home, except for essential purposes, until the end of the month.

If people are shielding, she went on, and cannot work from home, they must not go into work. In addition, from 5 January, a maximum of two people from up to two households will be able to meet outside although children aged 11 and under will not be counted in that limit.

Schools in Scotland will not re-open until 1 February at the earliest with only the children of key workers and vulnerable children allowed to attend classes in person. This decision will be subject to a review in mid-January.

No-one is allowed to travel into or out of Scotland unless it is for an essential purpose. In addition, places of worship must close during January although up to 20 people will still be able to attend funeral services and five people will be able to attend wedding and civil partnership services.

The decision to tighten restrictions came as patients in Tayside became among the first in Scotland to receive the Oxford/Astrazeneca coronavirus vaccine.

The First Minister said that the simplest way of explaining the challenge faced by the country was to compare it to a race.

“In one lane we have vaccines — our job is to make sure they run as fast as possible,“ she explained. “But in the other lane is the virus which — as a result of this new variant — has just learned to run much faster and has most definitely picked up pace in the last couple of weeks.”

To ensure that the vaccine wins the race, it is essential to speed up vaccination as far as possible, Ms Sturgeon went on. “But to give it the time it needs to get ahead, we must also slow the virus down.”

She concluded that she was more concerned now than she has been at any time since March about the state of the virus in Scotland and that she wanted every business to look again at their operations to make sure that every function that could be done by people working at home, is being done in that way.

All the above applies to mainland Scotland: island areas will remain in level three but will be monitored carefully.