A full and strict national lockdown will be imposed in Scotland from midnight for the rest of January, Nicola Sturgeon has announced.
The first minister said in a statement to the Scottish Parliament on Monday the new strain of Covid-19 meant the pandemic had quickly grown and was now “extremely serious”.
Schools will be closed until February 1 and there will be a legal requirement to stay at home, she said, adding the only reasons people should leave their house was for essential journeys and exercise.
The move piles pressure on Boris Johnson to act and comes after Labour leader Keir Starmer on Sunday called on the PM to impose a national lockdown in England within 24 hours.
The swift move comes amid a surge in cases of Covid-19 this winter following a new and more transmissible strain of the disease being found in the UK last month.
The first minister said: “It is no exaggeration to say that I am more concerned about the situation we face now than I have been at any time since March last year.”
The announcement will mean an additional two weeks of home learning for most pupils.
The Scottish government had already announced the festive break was being extended to January 11, with ministers having originally planned for remote learning until January 18.
However, schools will still be open for the children of key workers who cannot work from home, and for vulnerable youngsters.
Sturgeon said a period of home learning would drive down transmission rates.
“Just as the last places we ever want to close are schools and nurseries, so it is the case that schools and nurseries will be the first places we want to reopen as we re-emerge from this latest lockdown,” she said.
“They remain our priority.”
People who are shielding in Scotland were also told not to go into work.
“If you were shielding and you cannot work from home, our clear advice now is that you should not go into work at all,” said Sturgeon.
“The chief medical officer is writing to everyone who falls into this category, and his letter will count as a fit note for those who need it.”
Unlike the lockdown in March, no restrictions will be put on outdoor exercise.
However, rules around outdoor gatherings will change to only allow two people from two households to meet outdoors.
Sturgeon went on to urge Scots to “stick with” new restrictions as a coronavirus vaccine is rolled out.
She said: “I know that the next few weeks will be incredibly tough.
“I’m sorry to ask for further sacrifices, after nine long months of them. But these sacrifices are necessary.
“And the difference between now and last March is that with the help of vaccines, we now have confidence that they will pave the way to brighter days ahead. So – for everyone’s sake and safety – please stick with it and stay home.”
NHS capacity is already beginning to strain at some health boards, Sturgeon added, with NHS Ayrshire and Arran currently at 96% capacity, while Borders, Greater Glasgow and Clyde and Lanarkshire are above 60%.
According to modelling by the Scottish government, Sturgeon told MSPs, taking no action could see Covid-19 capacity in hospitals breached within “three or four weeks”.
She also warned that Scotland’s new lockdown may last longer than the end of the month, and will be kept “under review”.
She said: “I cannot at this stage rule out keeping them in place longer, nor making further changes. Nothing about this is easy.”