Scotland goes back into partial lockdown – here's what it means for your holiday

Tom Mulvihill
·5-min read
calton hill, edinburgh - Getty
calton hill, edinburgh - Getty

Scotland will go back into partial lockdown on Saturday 10 October, although restrictions will only remain in place for two weeks.

An alarming surge in the number of new cases being reported has prompted the move, which largely targets the hospitality sector.

The thrust of the strategy is to clamp down on the number of people drinking alcohol.

"The R number seems to have risen above 1 approximately three weeks after the hospitality sector opened up," said First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

"It does show that these settings pose a particular risk of transmitting the virus."And that makes sense about what we know about how the virus is spread. Indoor environments inevitably produce a greater risk of transmission. And of course the presence of alcohol can affect people's willingness to physically distance."

While bars and restaurants are up in arms at being targetted with restrictions once again, the tourism industry can take some consolation in the fact that there is no outright travel ban to coincide with the Scottish half-term holidays, which start next week.

Why has lockdown been declared again?

The Covid-19 case rate in Scotland has shot up in recent weeks. The country has gone from zero new infections reported on August 14 to 697 yesterday. The total number of confirmed cases now stands at almost 33,000.

Deaths remain low, but over 200 people have been admitted to hospital in the last few days, with 22 in intensive care. With a view to putting a lid on the surge in coronavirus cases, Holyrood is considering immediate action.

During her daily briefing on Monday afternoon, Nicola Sturgeon warned: “There is a rising tide of infection across the country, albeit it is higher in some parts than in others.

“Part of our consideration of restrictions also requires to take account not just reacting to a problem that is already there, but also are we wiser to take preventative action in areas where it might not look as if there is as big a problem right now.”

What are the restrictions?

The majority of licensed premises will be required to close at 6pm for the duration, and the consumption of alcohol will only be permitted outdoors. Only hotel restaurants will be allowed to remain open after 6pm, but only for residents, and without alcohol.

pubs glasgow - Getty
pubs glasgow - Getty

 What could 'circuit breaks' mean for hotels and half term holidays?

Some local authorities will be imposed with harsher restrictions. They include Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Lanarkshire, Ayrshire and Arran, Lothian and Forth Valley.

In these areas, all licensed premises will be required to close throughout the lockdown, with the exception of hotels for residents. A number of entertainment venues (bowling alleys, bingo halls, etc.) will also be required to shut, and there will also be a ban on amateur contact sports for over-18s and outdoor live events.

What would this mean for Scottish holidays?

At the moment, not a great deal. Travel is still allowed, even from other parts of the UK (although half term starts later in England, Wales and Northern Ireland) and hotels have been told they can remain open.

Those who have already booked weddings or funerals have also been told that the ceremonies can go ahead, and that they will be allowed to serve alcohol.

Of course, some people might have to rearrange their holiday plans. A boozy weekend of pub crawls will be difficult to manage, and anybody who had their heart set on bingo night in Glasgow will be sorely disappointed.

But be warned: cancelling your booking because you can't go bowling could leave you out of pocket. As hotels haven't been forced to shut at the government's say-so, you're not necessarily entitled to a refund. Some hotels have introduced free cancellation terms as an incentive to nervous travellers, or are offering guests the chance to amend their booking dates without an additional fee. But this wholly depends on the hotel you've booked to stay at.

What has the reaction been?

It's not a picture of happiness, that's for certain. Numerous Scottish businesses are already struggling under current rules, which include a 10pm curfew for restaurants and bars and reduced capacity to allow for social distancing. 

But being forced to close is an entirely different matter, and many business owners unable to see how they’ll be able to survive even two weeks without income.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland, Edinburgh restaurateur Carina Contini expressed doubt as to the effectiveness of shutting down hospitality to combat the virus.

gleneagles hotel - JAMES MERRELL
gleneagles hotel - JAMES MERRELL

“We’ve had a three-month lockdown, that was supposed to be our medicine to get the virus under control,” she said. “We suffered all of that – businesses suffered hugely, and many weren’t able to reopen after lockdown. And the thought of a further lockdown, it will have devastating consequences for many businesses.

“Is this really the only alternative? Where is the evidence the hospitality sector is the cause of the virus?”

Ms Sturgeon has acknowledged the "horrendously difficult decisions" facing hospitality employers, and has pledged to work with the sector to allocate aid packages to see them through the next few weeks.

"This is not hospitality's fault, nobody is pointing the finger of blame, but it is an exposure and somewhere that they could have got it or they could have transmitted it where positive," she said.

"Because of some of the characteristics of hospitality - sometimes poor ventilation, places where people especially with alcohol are mixing more and not mixing physical distancing - these are higher risk settings."