Covid in Scotland: Pre-Christmas review of restriction levels

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Edinburgh remains in level three despite lower levels of positive Covid tests than nearby areas

The latest review of Scotland's Covid-19 restriction levels will be announced at Holyrood later.

All 32 local authority areas will have their situation assessed by politicians and public health officials.

It could be the last review before the five-day Christmas easing of restrictions begins on 23 December.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said levels for all areas including Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire would be considered.

Ms Sturgeon said last week she expected it to be the last review until 5 January although a parliamentary update on levels is scheduled for next week.

The first minister said she wanted to provide consistency and stability over the Christmas period but would not rule out action if a particular area saw a surge in cases.

Edinburgh is currently in level three, which means tough restrictions on hospitality and limits travel into and out of the local authority area.

The decision to keep Edinburgh in level three last week was controversial because positive Covid rates in the city were lower than surrounding areas.

But at the daily coronavirus briefing on Monday, the first minister said a 33% spike in cases in the past week showed it was the right one.

Ms Sturgeon said moving the capital to level two would have been like "pouring petrol on smouldering embers."

Aberdeen has the second highest weekly rate of positive tests of all local authorities in level two and cases have continued to rise since the last weekly review.

'Keep our distance'

Any changes agreed will come at the same time as the government is advising people to cut down on contacts before Christmas.

At Monday's briefing, the first minister said people in Scotland should "think really carefully" about gathering indoors, adding that the "best Christmas gift we can give family and friends" is to "keep our distance and keep them safe".

In last week's review, it was announced that 11 council areas that were subject to the highest tier of restrictions would move down to lower levels.

The toughest restrictions were imposed to bring down case numbers in Scotland's Covid hotspots - but they came at a cost, with hospitality and non-essential shops required to close, among other measures.

Speaking on BBC Scotland's Coronavirus Update programme, Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross called on all the evidence behind the Scottish government's decisions on restriction levels to be made available, following the row over Edinburgh remaining in level three.

The Scottish Conservative leader reiterated the call for people to be sensible over the Christmas period, but said the government must be honest with the public about the science behind its decisions.

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Vaccinations for care home staff and residents have started in Scotland

Ms Sturgeon told MSPs last week that she considered moving Edinburgh down to level two - but the closeness to the Christmas period meant that this did not happen.

On Friday, Scotland's highest civil court ruled the decision to keep Edinburgh under level three Covid restrictions was lawful, with the judge deciding the Scottish government had a right to consider factors other than data.

The court heard there was "no simple algorithm" to determine levels and the indicators used "may change over time".

The judge highlighted that in level two people could travel around Scotland freely - except for entering level three or four areas - whereas those in level three could not leave the local authority area, limiting the potential for viral spread in the capital city.

The assessment of restriction levels for each area come as vaccinations are rolled out for frontline health workers and care home residents.

Vaccinations for health staff began last week, and the first vaccines for care home residents, who are considered the most vulnerable to Covid-19, were administered on Tuesday.