Scotland's coronavirus briefing RECAP: Brazilian variant arrives in UK as restrictions tighten

Follow here for all coronavirus updates from Scotland, the UK and around the world.

By Rachel Mackie
Friday, 15th January 2021, 6:39 am
Updated Friday, 15th January 2021, 2:24 pm

The vaccine roll out plan in Scotland that was published on the Scottish Government website is now back up, after it was taken down as the UK Government was concerned about ‘sensitive information’ regarding the vaccine supply.

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Nicola Sturgeon urged to reopen churches by more than 200 Scottish religious lea...

The First Minister confirmed at a press briefing that the information was temporarily removed while they discussed the issue.

She added that she believed in total transparency, and was not ‘convinced’ by the UK Gov’s concerns, though the information that the UK Gov referred too is now not included.

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Coronavirus in Scotland LIVE

Coronavirus in Scotland LIVE: Follow here for all Friday’s updates

Last updated: Friday, 15 January, 2021, 12:20

  • Nicola Sturgeon has been urged to reopen churches by more than 200 religious leaders.
  • Scotland ‘obliged to postpone’ passenger Covid tests due to UK Gov delay
  • Greater Glasgow and Clyde offer all eligible care homes vaccinations.

Travellers from South America banned amid fears over new Covid variant

Travellers from across South America have been banned from entering the UK amid growing concerns about a mutant coronavirus strain which has emerged in Brazil.

The ban which, also covers the Central American state of Panama and Portugal - due to its strong travel links with Brazil - and the former Portuguese colony of Cape Verde, came into force at 4am on Friday.

Scientists analysing the Brazilian variant believe the mutations it shares with the new South African strain seem to be associated with a rapid increase in cases in locations where there have already been large outbreaks of the disease.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps described the ban as a "precautionary" move to ensure the vaccination programme rolling out across the UK was not disrupted by new variants of the virus.

"We don't want to trip up at this late stage. We don't have cases at the moment but this is a precautionary approach," he told BBC News.

"We want to make sure that we do everything possible so that vaccine rollout can continue and make sure that it is not disturbed by other variants of this virus."

British and Irish nationals and others with residence rights are exempted from the measure, which was backed by the Scottish Government, though they must self-isolate for 10 days along with their households on their return.

There is an exemption also for hauliers travelling from Portugal to allow the transport of essential goods.

Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said the ban was a "necessary step" but accused ministers of incompetence and "lurching from one crisis and rushed announcement to another".

Darren Morgan, director for economic statistics at the ONS, said: "The (UK) economy took a hit from restrictions put in place to contain the pandemic during November, with pubs and hairdressers seeing the biggest impact.

"However, many businesses adjusted to the new working conditions during the pandemic, such as widespread use of click and collect as well as the move online.

"Manufacturing and construction generally continued to operate, while schools also stayed open, meaning the impact on the economy was significantly smaller in November than during the first lockdown.

"Car manufacturing, bolstered by demand from abroad, housebuilding and infrastructure grew and are now all above their pre-pandemic levels."

Supreme court to rule on £1.2bn battle over coronvirus insurance claims

The UK's highest court will rule on a landmark £1.2 billion legal battle over businesses' ability to claim on insurance for coronavirus-related disruption.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) last year brought a test case, which could affect around 370,000 businesses, over the wording of business interruption insurance policies, which some insurers argued did not cover the Covid-19 pandemic.

The City watchdog previously said it was bringing the legal action following "widespread concern" over "the lack of clarity and certainty" for businesses seeking to cover substantial losses incurred by the pandemic and subsequent national lockdown.

In September, the High Court ruled on several "lead" insurance policies issued by eight separate insurers largely in favour of the FCA, which welcomed the judgment as "a significant step in resolving the uncertainty being faced by policyholders".

The regulator, however, argued the judgment "paved the way for many insurance policies to pay indemnities on Covid-19 business interruption claims", but also "took something away with one hand after giving more substantially and in detail with the other".

Six of the insurers - Arch, Argenta, Hiscox, MS Amlin, QBE and RSA - also appealed against aspects of the High Court's ruling, as did the Hiscox Action Group, which represents around 400 businesses insured by Hiscox.

In November, the Supreme Court heard "leapfrog" appeals - which have bypassed the Court of Appeal - in a case which could have implications for hundreds of thousands of businesses affected by coronavirus.

French face nationwide 6PM curfew to tackle coronavirus

All of France will be under a strict 6pm curfew for at least 15 days to fight the spread of coronavirus, the Prime Minister has announced.

Jean Castex also revealed strict new controls for those arriving in France from countries outside the European Union.

Starting on Monday, they must produce a PCR test with negative results and self-isolate for seven days followed by a new, negative test.

France wants to coordinate a response with the European Union about arrivals from EU countries, he said.

The French government is trying to avoid a third lockdown with partial measures like curfews which Mr Castex called both "preventative" and "reactive".

Most regions were under an 8pm curfew but from Saturday "everyone must be home at 6pm," Mr Castex said. That means stores must close by then. Bars and restaurants have been closed for months.

The average infection rate for coronavirus stands at about 16,000 people per day.

France has one of the highest death counts in Europe, at more than 69,000, and ranks seventh in the world behind countries such as the US, Brazil and the UK.

Shapp’s ‘not aware’ of Brazilian variant in UK as South American travel ban hits

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said he is "not aware" of any cases of the Brazilian coronavirus variant in the UK as travellers from across South America were banned from entry.

The ban, which also covers the Central American state of Panama and Portugal - due to its strong travel links with Brazil - and the former Portuguese colony of Cape Verde, came into force at 4am on Friday.

Scientists analysing the Brazilian variant believe the mutations it shares with the new South African strain are associated with a rapid increase in cases in locations where there have already been large outbreaks of the disease.

British and Irish nationals and others with residence rights are exempted from the measures that were backed by the Scottish and Welsh governments, though they must self-isolate for 10 days along with their households on their return.

Mr Shapps described the ban as a "precautionary" measure to ensure the vaccination programme rolling out across the UK was not disrupted by new variants of the virus.

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