Covid: central belt pubs to close for 16 days

The Scottish Government said on Wednesday afternoon that all pubs and restaurants across the central belt of Scotland including Edinburgh and Glasgow are to be closed for 16 days from Friday at 6pm under new measures aimed at tackling an alarming spike in coronavirus cases.

Outside the central belt, pubs, restaurants and cafes will not be able to serve alcohol indoors, and can only serve food and non-alcoholic drinks between 6am and 6pm for the 16-day period.

They will be able to continue to serve alcohol outdoors until the existing curfew time of 10pm.

The UK Hospitality trade association said the new curbs were “a total catastrophe” for the sector.

“Forced closures will spell the end for many, many venues which have no cash flow and will have exhausted their reserves,” said Willie Macleod, the association’s executive director for Scotland.

“It is likely to be the final straw for many that were only just hanging on.

“We are going to see businesses fold and many jobs lost.”

In the seven days up to Monday, the number of people in hospital with Covid in Scotland increased by almost 80%. 

In the past week, cases in people over 80 years old increased by 60% and cases in the 60-79 year old age group more than doubled.

The closures in the central belt focus on five health board areas –Ayrshire & Arran, Forth Valley, Greater Glasgow & Clyde, Lanarkshire and Lothian.

Scotch Whisky Association CEO Karen Betts said:  “Today’s new measures are a blow for pubs, bars and restaurants across Scotland. 

“They have invested a great deal of time and money in reopening safely and carefully, supporting their customers in being able to socialise again while complying with government guidance, and in providing work for their employees. 

“The measures will stall their recovery and will impact into their supply chains – including not only whisky but Scotland’s other fabulous food and drink producers. 

“Hospitality and tourism are vital to the Scottish economy.

“They offer jobs to young people, flexible work to those who need it, generate billions of pounds for the Scottish economy, and they are part of who we are.

“All the businesses impacted by the new measures will need to see the new support package delivered very quickly, so these new restrictions do not add to business failures and job losses.”

The Scottish Government said: “Further measures to reduce the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) are to come into effect later this week as Scotland recorded more than 1,000 new positive test results in a single day.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament the actions are needed now to prevent a return to the peak level of infections experienced in spring by the end of this month.

Sturgeon said: “While there are significant restrictions still in place — and they are hard and painful — we are living much more freely now than in the spring and early summer.

“We are determined — if at all possible — that this will continue to be the case.

“We are not going back into lockdown today. We are not closing schools. We are not halting the remobilisation of the NHS for non-Covid care. And we are not asking people to stay at home.

“The need for action is highlighted by today’s figures and, more fundamentally, in the evidence paper published today.

“To try to interrupt this trajectory, we must act now. While the measures will feel like a backward step, they are in the interests of protecting our progress overall.

“It is by taking the tough but necessary action now that we hope to avoid even tougher action in future.”

The new restrictions, backed by a new £40 million support fund for business and the existing UK Job Retention Scheme, will be in place nationwide for 16 days, with tighter restrictions across central belt areas where the infection rate is highest.

Restrictions on licensed premises will come into force from 6pm on Friday, with all other restrictions applying from midnight on Friday.

The new measures are:

Nationwide (excepting central belt areas):

  • Hospitality (food and drink): all premises may only open indoors between 6am and 6pm, with no sales of alcohol
  • Hospitality (food and drink): premises may open outdoors until 10pm, with sales of alcohol (where licensed)
  • Takeaways (including from pubs and restaurants) can continue
  • Evening meals may be served in accommodation for residents only but no alcohol can be served
  • Current meeting rules, maximum of six people from two households, continue to apply
  • Specific life events, such as weddings and funerals, may continue with alcohol being served, with current meeting rules for these events (20 person limit in regulated premises only)

Central belt area focusing on five health board areas (Ayrshire & Arran; Forth Valley; Greater Glasgow & Clyde; Lanarkshire; Lothian):

  • All licensed premises will be required to close, with the exception of takeaway services
  • Cafés (unlicensed premises) which don’t have an alcohol licence will be able to open between 6am and 6pm
  • Takeaways (including from pubs and restaurants) can continue
  • Evening meals may be served in accommodation for residents only but no alcohol can be served
  • Specific life events, such as weddings and funerals, may continue with alcohol, with current meeting rules for these events (20 person limit in regulated premises only)
  • No group exercise classes for indoor gyms and sports courts, pools with an exemption for under 18s
  • No adult (18+) contact sports or training, except professional sports, indoor or outdoor
  • No outdoor live events
  • Snooker/pool halls, indoor bowling, casinos and bingo halls are to close
  • Public transport use should be minimised as much as possible, such as for education and work, where it cannot be done from home
  • Current meeting rules, maximum of six people from two households, continue to apply

About the Author

Mark McSherry
Dalriada Media LLC sites are edited by veteran news journalist Mark McSherry, a former staff editor and reporter with Reuters, Bloomberg and major newspapers including the South China Morning Post, London's Sunday Times and The Scotsman. McSherry's journalism has also appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Independent, The New York Times, London's Evening Standard and Forbes. McSherry is also a professor of journalism and communication arts in universities and colleges in New York City. Scottish-born McSherry has an MBA from the University of Edinburgh and a Certificate in Global Affairs from New York University.