Restrictions on bars and restaurants in Scotland have been extended for a further week ahead of a new tiered system coming into force on November 2.
Tough guidelines preventing hospitality businesses from selling alcohol were introduced for an initial three-week period across the country earlier this month.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced at a Covid-19 briefing today that those restrictions will now apply for a further week.
The Scottish Government will publish details of a new tiered system of restrictions on Friday.
Subject to parliamentary approval, these will begin on November 2.
Ms Sturgeon said that while there is “cautious optimism” that the restrictions are working, the clinical advice was that it would not be safe to lift the measures from Monday.
She also said she could not rule out that even tougher restrictions would be introduced in Scotland if it is deemed necessary to “safeguard health and life”.
The first minister said: “None of these decisions are being taken lightly.
“This is all about trying to save lives and minimise the health damage we know this virus is capable of doing.
“We do believe these restrictions will make a difference and indeed, we believe they may already be making a difference.”
‘Your behaviour today literally saves lives’
Scotland has recorded 28 deaths from coronavirus and 1,739 positive tests in the past 24 hours – the highest number of fatalities since May 21.
There are 873 people in hospital confirmed to have the virus as of yesterday, up by 49 in 24 hours.
Of these patients, 73 are in intensive care, a rise of three.
National clinical director Jason Leitch said the latest figures, both in Scotland and across the world, were a “stark warning” of what Covid-19 can do.
He added: “But there are also grounds for cautious optimism.
“The non-pharmaceutical interventions, the distancing, the hand-washing, face coverings, they work.
“Reducing contact with other people, it works.”
Prof Leitch cited an evidence paper by clinical advisers published on September 30 that said the time for the number of cases to double in Scotland had reduced from 11 days to nine days.
Had infections continued to rise at the same rate, there would have been 2,100 cases by October 16.
Scottish Government statistics from October 16 recorded 1,196 new cases on that day.
Prof Leitch said: “That would suggest the restrictions in place, the household ones to the hospitality ones, are working.
“But they are working slowly. That’s why we are reluctant to move away from them.
“Your behaviour today literally saves lives. But not today. It saves those lives three to four weeks from now.
“This is not like doing life support at the side of the road and saving a life in that half-hour.
“It is much further away, your hand-washing, your social distancing, your reducing social interaction, saves yours and other lives and that’s why it is so important you stick to these restrictions.”
Financial help for businesses
People across the country remain banned from visiting each other’s homes, unless they are part of an extended household.
The first minister said full details of that support will be published online, but the business support grants and top-ups for the furlough scheme will be extended.
Scottish businesses will receive “proportionally the same” amount of support in the extra week of the restrictions as they did in the previous 16 days, she said.
The Scottish Government will outline the levels of support to be offered to firms in the new tiered system of restrictions to be published on Friday.
However, Ms Sturgeon said the financial support outlined in the framework will be the maximum amount which can be offered by her devolved administration.
The Scottish Government, the First Minister said, will pursue “urgent discussions” with the Treasury to increase funding to allow more support for businesses to be offered.