Nicola Sturgeon said there would be a severe travel ban between Scotland and the rest of the UK throughout the festive season, and that the five-day Christmas window for indoor mixing would be reduced to just Christmas Day.
In Wales, First Minister Mark Drakeford has abandoned festive relaxation plans for everyone except Christmas Day and proposed the lockout of the country, which will now begin at midnight on Saturday.
For the first three weeks of Boxing Day, locking Level 4 restrictions will be enforced near all parts of Scotland, with essential shops and hospitality closed.
Sturgeon announced it would return to school for students, with lessons only available online from Jan. 11 to Jan. 18, except for children of key workers who may return on Jan. 5.
Speaking to the media and the public after an emergency cabinet meeting on Saturday afternoon, the First Minister of Scotland said that while the situation in England and Wales was not yet dire – action on a preventive basis was essential.
Sturgeon said the information he discussed in the cabinet about the impact of the new strain of the virus could be “probably the most serious and dangerous case” since the outbreak. Seventeen cases of the new variant have now been identified across Scotland, but this could reduce its prevalence, he said.
Sturgeon, who has taken a more cautious approach following the Christmas guidance, said the new regulations are designed to prevent entry into Scotland and reduce the risk of further spread in the country.
The festive bubble is in the range of eight people from three houses, with a strong recommendation to keep it as small as possible.
He asked not to meet indoors with people other than Christmas. He will only be allowed to travel into Scotland on Christmas Day, and he will ask police Scotland to consider how to enforce the cross-border travel ban.
Sturgeon said: “Saying this makes me want to cry here because I know how serious it is … but this virus is unfair.”
He said he understood that people would look at Scotland’s case numbers and ask if it was necessary to tighten these restrictions immediately. “This new strain is spreading so fast that it will overwhelm us very soon,” he said.