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New coronavirus restrictions include scaling back of alcohol sales in pubs and restaurants as First Minister outlines 'difficult but important measures'

By Gregor White

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Pubs, bars, restaurants and cafés across the Highlands are to be restricted in their sale of alcohol as part of new measures to drive down Covid infection rates following a worrying rise.

Premises will be allowed to open daily from 6am to 6pm for the service of food and non-alcoholic drinks only.

Hotel restaurants will be able to operate beyond 6pm, but only for residents and without alcohol.

There will be exemptions for weddings that have already been booked as well as for funerals.

Bars, pubs, restaurants and cafés can continue to serve alcohol outdoors up to the existing curfew time of 10pm however all the current regulations and the limits on meeting a maximum of six people from two households will still apply.

The new restrictions announced by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon come into effect on Friday and will last for 16 days.

Tougher measures are to be implemented for five health board areas in the central belt where Covid-19 infection rates have been higher: Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Lanarkshire, Ayrshire & Arran, Lothian and Forth Valley.

From Friday all licensed premises in these areas with the exception of hotels will be closed for 16 days, except for takeaways.

While no travel restrictions have been imposed people in those areas people there have been advised to limit travel, including avoiding public transport if possible.

People within these five areas have been advised not to travel outwith these areas if they don't have to.

Nationally, new regulations on the wearing of face coverings in public places will be strengthened, with more action to strengthen compliance with the current regulations.

Supermarkets and shops will remain open but are being asked to reintroduce two metre physical distancing and one way systems that were in place earlier in the pandemic.

Ms Sturgeon told Holyrood these were "difficult but important temporary measures" and that she was acutely aware of lives and jobs being at stake and that none of her decisions were taken lightly.

She stressed: "We are not going back into lockdown" and noted that schools would remain open.

She said action was needed now to curb a rise in infection rates and avoid a return to the peak levels witnessed in spring.

She urged people to stick to rules preventing visits to other households, apart from a number of exceptions.

She also outlined plans for another support package aimed at helping the hardest hit hospitality providers.

She appealed for a "spirit of love and solidarity" and for people to continue supporting others through the challenge.

Nineteen more cases were logged in the NHS Highland area over the past 24 hours.

Ross MSP welcomes targeted crackdown and urges public to abide by restrictions

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