Scotland’s First Minister introduces new lockdown

A legal requirement to stay at home except for essential purposes will be introduced as of midnight tonight

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Pexels/Karolina Grabowska

The Scottish Government has introduced a new lockdown requirement for the rest of January, aiming to minimise the spread of coronavirus.

Describing the situation as “extremely serious,” the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, announced that a legal requirement to stay at home except for essential purposes is to be introduced from midnight, 4 January.

The public are advised to stay home except for essential purposes, including healthcare, essential shopping, exercise and caring responsibilities.

In a statement, Optometry Scotland said it was in discussion with Scottish Government Community Eyecare colleagues over the implications of the announcement for optometry practices, but that in the meantime, practices should remain open in line with guidance from the winter lockdown.

The association said: “In the meantime, in keeping with the Scottish Government’s Remobilisation of Primary Care, all practices should remain open and continue to provide services as per PCA(O)(2020)12 and with emergency and essential care being prioritised to those patients who are at greatest risk of detriment to sight or wellbeing.”

Optometry Scotland added that, to maintain a safe working environment, “maximum emphasis must remain on continuing to scrupulously adhere to all relevant infection prevention and control requirements, and ensure effective use of remote triage and consultations.”

The First Minister said that those who are able to work from home “must do so”, and those who are considered to be ‘shielding’ are advised not to go into work.

The decisions will apply to parts of Scotland currently at level 4, which includes all of mainland Scotland, while the island areas will remain in level 3 but will be closely monitored.

AOP Councillor and optometrist, Kevin Wallace, told OT: “It is not anticipated that practices will return to seeing patients only in Emergency Eye Treatment Centres.”

He suggested that the government has said community practices can provide a full service, continuing to screen patients for COVID-19 symptoms, using appropriate PPE and enhanced hygiene.

He said: “Members should continue to regularly check the latest guidance as the situation is likely to change rapidly over the next few days.”

While the approval of new vaccines has been a positive step in the pandemic, a new, faster-spreading variant of the virus has been a “massive blow,” the First Minister said, highlighting a “steeply rising trend of infections.”

A further 1905 new cases were reported on 4 January, with 15% of tests returning a positive result. In the week between 23 to 30 December, the seven day incidence of cases per 100,000 of the population increased by 65% - from 136 per 100,000 to 225 per 100,000.

Though the NHS services are “coping at present,” Ms Sturgeon described the position as “fragile” in some areas and warned of a “real risk of our NHS being overwhelmed” if the rate of increase in case numbers were to continue unchecked.

The Scottish Government has also extended the requirement for children to learn remotely, keeping schools closed to the majority of students, except for vulnerable children and the children of key workers. A review will be held on 18 January regarding whether schools might be able to return on 1 February.

Prime Minister to give address

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to make a televised address at 8pm. It is expected that the Prime Minister could outline further measures to address the rising coronavirus cases in the UK.

The House of Commons is also to be recalled to enable MPs to vote on new measures on Wednesday.

This story has been updated to reflect a statement shared by Optometry Scotland.