Scotland will be closed for January as it is a legal requirement to stay at home, Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced in the Scottish Parliament.
Nicola Sturgeon has said she is more concerned about the coronavirus now than she is about the duration of the pandemic.
While updating the MSPs at Holyrood, the First Minister announced that a lockdown would go into effect in Scotland for the period of January.
She said: “It is no exaggeration to say that I am more concerned about the situation we are facing now than I have been since March last year.”
The NHS capacity at some health authorities is already beginning to strain, the Prime Minister said. NHS Ayrshire and Arran are currently 96% occupancy while Borders, Greater Glasgow and Clyde and Lanarkshire are over 60%.
Without intervention, Nicola Sturgeon said, the NHS in Scotland could be overwhelmed in the coming weeks.
According to a model used by the Scottish Government, the First Minister informed the MSP that failure to comply could overload the capacity of Covid-19 in hospitals within “three or four weeks”.
Ms. Sturgeon said: “We have an opportunity in Scotland to avert this deteriorating situation.
“But we have to act quickly.”
It is because Boris Johnson is under increasing pressure to immediately announce new coronavirus lockdown measures for England, as he recognized that “no question” tougher measures were needed.
The Prime Minister said he would act “in due course” and “do whatever is necessary”.
However, he was warned not to delay announcing new restrictions in England as cases and pressure on the NHS increased.
In Scotland, MSPs have been recalled from their Christmas break.
The government hopes the rollout of the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine, injected into first recipients as part of the national rollout on Monday, will change the course of the fight against the coronavirus.
However, the prime minister warned that there would be “tough” weeks as cases continue to increase.
The latest data shows a 41% increase in the number of confirmed coronavirus patients in hospital in England between Christmas and January 3. These numbers have raised alarms in Whitehall and the healthcare sector.
“If you look at the numbers, there is no question that we need to take stricter measures and we will announce them in due course,” Johnson said during a visit to Chase Farm Hospital in north London.
With 78% of the UK population already subject to the strictest restrictions currently in place, ministers are reviewing the success of the Tier 4 measures, which first came into force on December 20th.
Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt called for immediate action to close schools, close borders and ban household shuffling. He said the situation was “off-scale” worse than in previous winter crises the NHS has faced.
“Given the exponential growth, waiting for an extra day results in many preventable deaths, so there is an urgent need to accelerate these plans now,” he said.
Senior Tory Neil O’Brien said procedures “need to be tightened” at the border to prevent cases from being imported – a particular problem given the potential for new variants like the one in South Africa.
The introduction of Oxford / AstraZeneca’s vaccine, which is easier to distribute than Pfizer / BioNTech’s other approved vaccine, could be a way out of further bans, but it could take months for sufficient numbers to get their first shot.
Brian Pinker, 82, was the first to receive the sting outside of clinical trials.
Ministers have stated that the NHS is able to deliver two million doses of the Oxford vaccine per week, but supplies are limited.
While around 530,000 cans should be available as of Monday, the Department of Health and Social Affairs (DHSC) said another ten million cans will be delivered in the coming weeks and months after the batches have been quality checked.
Mr Johnson said, “We have the capacity, the problem is getting the vaccine.
“It’s not so much a manufacturing problem, although that’s part of it.
“Each batch must be properly approved and quality controlled.”
In the meantime, uncertainty remained about the reopening of English elementary schools this week.
Mr Johnson said “the risk for children is very, very small” and “the risk for teachers is no greater than it is for others”.
Education unions have urged the government to halt return to the classroom until the safety of staff and students can be ensured.
In a joint statement, unions GMB, NAHT, NASUWT, NEU, Unison and Unite said there is a “serious risk” of employees getting sick while the infection rate is so high.
“If all students are brought back to the classroom while the infection rate is so high, those in the education sector are at serious health risk and could fuel the pandemic,” the unions said.
Kate Green, secretary for shadowing, said there needs to be a “stronger set” of coronavirus restrictions, with a clear message to the public to stay home.
She told BBC Radio 4’s Today program, “It is very clear that the government has lost control of the virus. We are seeing a really alarming increase in the number of cases and the spread of the infection.”
Dr. Mike Tildesley, a member of the SPI-M modeling group that advises the government, warned that closing schools would not be enough to bring the R-number – the rate of reproduction of the virus – below one without the more general restrictions would be better respected.
Mr Johnson urged the public to abide by the rules in their area despite the frustration the restrictions caused.
“We will do everything we can to keep the virus under control and people should have no doubt that the government will do whatever is necessary,” said the Prime Minister.
“But I have to stress at this critical moment that it is so important that people stay disciplined.”
Fall rates are highest in England in London, one of the first areas to enter Tier 4.
For the seven days to December 30, the rate was 934.3 cases per 100,000 people, down from 844.3 the previous week and 531.5 two weeks ago.
Hospitals in the capital have a record number of patients with Covid-19, with 6,358 as of 8:00 a.m. on January 3, more than twice as many as two weeks ago and above the first wave high of 5,201 on April 9.