Borders now under lockdown in bid to curb coronavirus after order issued to stay at home except for specified reasons

The Borders is now under lockdown, along with the rest of the UK, following the directive issued by UK Government prime minister Boris Johnson last night, March 23, for people to stay at home except for specified reasons in a bid to slow down the spread of coronavirus.

Tuesday, 24th March 2020, 8:45 am
Updated Tuesday, 24th March 2020, 9:52 am
UK Government prime minister Boris Johnson addressing the nation on TV from 10 Downing Street in London as he announced a lockdown intended to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Shops selling what are designated as non-essential goods have also been ordered to close as Mr Johnson takes drastic steps to combat the spread of the disease, known as Covid-19, across the country.

Those draconian measures, announced during an address to the nation on television, will be in force for at least three weeks and possibly considerably longer than that.

Libraries, playgrounds and outdoor gyms and places of worship have also been ordered to shut.

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That directive follows pubs, theatres, cinema, cafes and restaurants being shut down from Friday night onwards.

Mr Johnson told people they should not be going out shopping except for essentials such as food and medicine.

Though that means that food retailers and pharmacies will remain open, Mr Johnson said people should limit visits to them and use delivery services instead if possible.

He said: “To ensure compliance with the Government’s instruction to stay at home, we will immediately close all shops selling non-essential goods, including clothing and electronic stores and other premises including libraries, playgrounds and outdoor gyms and places of worship.”

Guidance issued by the UK Government also calls on hair, beauty and nail salons and outdoor and indoor markets, except for food markets, to shut up shop.

Several retailers had already announced they were closing their doors prior to that order including Johnstons of Elgin, John Lewis and Primark.

Sports Direct, however, had vowed to keep its stores open, including its sole branch in the Borders, at Low Buckholmside in Galashiels, but it has since fallen into line and agreed to shut them.

Mr Johnson acknowledged the lockdown announced yesterday will disrupt people’s lives, businesses and jobs but promised that it will be lifted when it is safe to do so.

“I can assure you that we will keep these restrictions under constant review,” he said.

“We will look again in three weeks and relax them if the evidence shows we are able to, but at present there are just no easy options.

“The way ahead is hard, and it is still true that many lives will sadly be lost.”

The closure of shops is part of a wider package of restrictions on leaving home in effect until Easter Monday, and breaches of those measures could be punishable by fines of £30-plus.

Public gatherings of more than two people are now banned and people should only leave their homes to shop for basic necessities “as infrequently as possible”, to perform one form of exercise once a day, seek medical help, provide care for vulnerable people or travel to work if “absolutely necessary”, the nation was told.

“That’s all. These are the only reasons you should leave your home,” said Mr Johnson.

“You should not be meeting friends. If your friends ask you to meet, you should say no. You should not be meeting family members who do not live in your home.”

Police Scotland chief constable Iain Livingstone has pledged that his force will do its utmost to enforce the lockdown, saying: “We are fully behind the new measures announced by the UK and Scottish governments to increase social distancing, and I urge and expect everyone to comply with them.

“We are aware of the proposed legislation in relation to coronavirus and are carefully considering the implications in this very fast-moving situation, which presents the gravest of threats to the nation.

“In the meantime, Police Scotland has a clear, positive duty to both protect life and improve the safety and wellbeing of people across Scotland while supporting the government and health agencies in our fight against this pandemic.

“Therefore, until the new legislation is in place, we will be increasing police patrols in key areas across the country to engage with and provide guidance to anyone in contravention of the measures.

“Those breaking the law will be dealt with appropriately to ensure the public is kept safe from risk and harm.

“I urge you all to stay informed about developments and reflect on how you go about your lives during these difficult days.

“We in Police Scotland will continue to focus on public service and we must all work to support the national effort.”

Council chiefs in the Borders have issued clarification to staff on who should be turning up for work as normal and who should be staying at home following last night’s announcement.

It’s business as usual for SB Cares staff and support workers, teaching and education support staff involved in providing care or schooling for key workers’ children, education quality improvement officers, social workers, emergency duty team and public protection personnel, refuse collection and waste management workers, gravediggers, back-office staff already designated as key workers and some customer advice and support staff unable to work from home.

Scottish Borders Council’s chief executive, Tracey Logan, said: “Clearly this a rapidly-changing position. We want to ensure our staff have clarity as soon as possible, with further information to be issued in the coming days.

“This situation remains extremely challenging for all of us, but it is vital we continue to work together to maintain our services for the Borders.”