NICOLA Sturgeon has unveiled a new local, five-level system to help Scotland “manage and live with the virus in the next phase of the pandemic”.

While she warned that the government could still need “to take a national approach if required”, this new system should mean parts of the country with low rates of infection won’t have to live with the same restrictions as a part of the country with much higher rates.

Unlike the English system, which has three tiers, ours will run from Level 0 to Level 4, with the lowest set of restrictions being the “closest to normality we think we can safely get to” without a vaccine for Covid 19.

The highest level will be closer to a full lockdown with non-essential shops closed.

Level 3 will ban hospitality venues from selling alcohol indoors and outdoors and will close entertainment venues, while Level 2 will mean households cannot mix in homes.

Level 1 will allow mixing inside homes, while outdoors will be limited to six people from two households.

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Sturgeon said the government’s ambition was to keep schools open under all tiers.

The First Minister outlined the plans at her daily coronavirus briefing yesterday, where she also reported 18 deaths and 1401 new positive cases in the previous 24 hours.

Although cases are still rising, she said the rate of increase “appears to be slowing down and that does give us grounds for optimism, albeit, it is still at this stage, quite cautious optimism”.

She added: “And, given the life cycle of this virus, it is likely that the intervention having the biggest impact on helping slow the increase so far is the restriction on going in to other people’s houses, which came into force towards the end of September.

“It is probably still too early for us to be seeing the full impact on case numbers of the restrictions on hospitality which only took effect on October 9. So that effect has yet, we think, to kick in to the figures for cases.”

The First Minister said she was keeping an “open mind” on the framework, and said it could change significantly before it heads to the Scottish Parliament to be debated and voted on by MSPs on Tuesday.

She said: “Now, I appreciate that many businesses – for completely understandable reasons – would rather not see any restrictions that lead to closure or significant reductions in trade.

“However, I also know you understand why these decisions are necessary.

“And we want to give you an opportunity over the next few days to set out any specific proposals you might have.

“In particular, I know that hospitality businesses – especially hard hit – will want to argue that different types of premises should be open at different levels of intervention.

“Now, I can’t promise that we will be able to accommodate every request while still suppressing the virus – but I can promise that we will listen. None of us want to be imposing restrictions, to businesses or individuals, that are not absolutely necessary.”

The new regime will kick in on November 2. Before then the government will hold discussions with local authority leaders, public health chiefs and others to decide which councils go into which level.

These will then be reviewed on a weekly basis.

Sturgeon said: “We do not envisage returning to a situation as severe as the first lockdown imposed back in late March.

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“We are not back at square one, we have made progress in tackling the virus and we have more tools at our disposal to help control it.”

But she warned that the sharp increase in Covid-19 cases over the last month would almost certainly mean hospital admissions, those in intensive care and the number of deaths are “likely to continue to rise for some time yet”.

Responding to the new five-level framework, Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said: “As this new tiered system comes into force, decisions need to be communicated without confusion and there needs to be a change of approach from the SNP if we’re going to protect Scottish jobs.

“Businesses must be consulted, crippling decisions can’t be forced on them at the last minute, and support must be available from the minute restrictions come into force.”

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said people need to know “how long they can expect to be under these restrictions”.

He added: “With the potential for different areas of the country to be under different regulations, there exists a real danger of confusion among the public, putting health at risk.”