Moray MSP Richard Lochhead has responded to widespread upset that Moray will move into Level 4 on Boxing Day along with highly-populated Level 3 areas in the Central Belt.
The county has experienced the lowest infection on the mainland, and has remained in Level 1 since the tier system was introduced last month. Local authority areas in the Central Belt were in Level 4 to combat high numbers but have dropped down to Level 3, and now residents of Moray are wondering why they should be put under the same restrictions, jumping three steps to Level 4, the highest, which closes all non-essential shops, hospitality, gyms and hairdressers.
The Government has said the new strain identified in the UK is spreading much faster than the orginal form, and that in parts of the UK it is ‘running out of control’.
Mr Lochhead said: “Many people in Moray will be upset that Christmas plans may now have to change in light of the new restrictions that have followed the identification of a new more infectious strain of Covid circulating in the UK.
“I’ve also no doubt that many people will still be trying to process the announcement made by the First Minister over the weekend, confirming that all of mainland Scotland, including Moray, will move into level four restrictions for three weeks from Boxing Day.
“The decision to rapidly increase the level of restrictions across the country is not one that has been taken lightly. This position has been reached due to the rapid spread of the new strain of the virus in London, the South East of England, and in Wales. A few weeks ago, case numbers in London were low, but they are now running out of control.
“With confirmed cases of this new strain in Scotland, this action is being taken as a preventative measure, to stop case numbers from escalating very quickly. We need to act now to give us a chance of keeping the situation under control while the vaccination programme makes progress – we cannot take chances and allow the new strain of the virus to spread through communities in Scotland, like it has done in other parts of the UK.
“The alternative is to take no action, and whilst that may feel easier – especially given Christmas is just around the corner and we’ve all had an incredibly tough year – there’s no doubt that to do nothing would risk many lives and put our local NHS under enormous strain.
“Throughout this pandemic I have always ensured that decision makers recognise the impact of restrictions on Moray, whether that be the challenges facing our local businesses or the risks of isolation in rural communities, and I will continue to do so. But low case numbers in previous weeks, and being a rural constituency, does not make us immune to this awful virus. Just a few cases of this new more infectious strain in Moray could turn things around very quickly.
“I know that this is a very difficult time for many of us who feel frustrated and worried. I would simply urge everyone in Moray to continue to stick to the guidance and keep doing our bit to keep our communities safe.”