Nicola Sturgeon bans travel into Scotland and announces three-week lockdown from Boxing Day

First minister ‘genuinely sorry’ about tougher rules

New Covid-19 strain 70 per cent more transmissible, government says

Nicola Sturgeon has announced a ban on travel into Scotland from the rest of the UK.

The first minister also said the toughest level of coronavirus restrictions would apply across Scotland for three weeks from Boxing Day.

A planned easing of household mixing will now only take place on Christmas Day, she added, urging Scots to “only use this flexibility [to see loved ones] if you really need to”. Ms Sturgeon advised people not to meet other households at all if they could help it, though the law will permit eight people from three groups to meet.

Leaders across the country are cracking down on movement in the face of surging Covid-19 cases and a virulent new strain of the disease.

Boris Johnson cancelled Christmas gatherings for millions in England by announcing new Tier 4 restrictions on Saturday afternoon, while Wales is due to enter a full lockdown.

Ms Sturgeon told a briefing on Saturday: “In order to reduce the risk of more of the [coronavirus] strain being imported into Scotland, we intend to maintain a strict travel ban between Scotland and the rest of the UK.

"Unfortunately, and I am genuinely sorry about this, that ban will remain in place right throughout the festive period.

“We simply cannot risk more of this new strain entering the country if we can possibly avoid it. That means people from Scotland not visiting other parts of the UK, and vice versa.

“Cross-border travel for all but the most essential purposes is not permitted.”

Infections have rocketed in the southeast of England thanks to the new Covid-19 strain which is up to 70 per cent more transmissible than the original version, government scientists said on Saturday.

While it is not though to cause more severe illness than the original variant, its spread will heap yet more pressure on the NHS just as winter is looming.

“We simply cannot take the risk of this new strain travelling from other parts of the UK” into Scotland, Ms Sturgeon said.

She added: “Standing here saying this actually makes me want to cry … because I know how harsh this sounds. I know how unfair it is, but this virus is unfair.”

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