Lanarkshire is on the brink of being placed under the Scottish Government’s strictest coronavirus restrictions as positive cases in the region soar.

And the new restrictions could come into force as soon as next week, as the area faces being placed in ‘Level 4’ of the new five-tier approach.

That means from November 2 travel in and out of the area would be banned, with all but essential shops forced to close.

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The tighter restrictions come as numbers of positive cases in the region have rocketed in recent weeks, with NHS Lanarkshire announcing on Monday that hospitals in the area are operating at over 90 per cent capacity to treat COVID-19 patients.

The concerns were raised after a leaked letter from the Scottish Government to COSLA, the council umbrella group, gave a clear indication on the thinking by ministers.

Written by Kenneth Thomson, a senior civil servant, it stated: “Because of the severity of the impact of the measures in the highest level, Level 4, ministers will only consider using it if necessary.

“The data currently indicates that level of concern for two areas: Level 4 is being considered for North and South Lanarkshire. There are, however, some signs in the latest data that the situation in those areas may be stabilising.”

About 650,000 people live in North and South Lanarkshire where the rate of positive COVID cases per 100,000 people is 327.8.

East Kilbride MSP, Linda Fabiani, said she understood that “no decision has yet been taken” and that data is being scrutinised on a daily basis to ensure the right decision is reached.

She added: “The situation is serious and Lanarkshire has, of course, been a particular concern for a number of weeks.

“It is concerning that NHS Lanarkshire services are stretched and they are treating more people now than at the height of the pandemic.

“I obviously hope any decision will give both people and business plenty of time to prepare.”

East Kilbride care home confirms 27 positive COVID cases

Graham Simpson MSP said it was a “very serious matter” and added that he hoped the area didn’t have to be moved to Level 4, asking for detailed evidence to back up the decision to move the region into that level of lockdown.

He added: “They need to ensure that both councils are on board with this and they also would need to say how they plan to compensate businesses that could be forced to close.”

Mr Thomson’s leaked letter said that ministers would wait until the last possible minute to make the decision, but added that “at this stage the use of Level 4 cannot be ruled out”.

Monica Lennon MSP called the situation here “very worrying” and urged the Scottish Government to “speed up” contact tracing and boost testing facilities for Lanarkshire residents.

She added: “This is not the right way to be communicating with our local communities.

“After all, people are trying hard to stick to rules and do everything asked of them. These continual leaks and mixed messages are very unhelpful.

“Lanarkshire is facing the toughest lockdown in Scotland, and we urgently need more support for people who are self-isolating, more support for workers and businesses and much more investment in Test and Protect.”

The restrictions at Level 4 are closer to a full lockdown and would apply when transmission rates are or threatening to become very high, with corresponding pressure on the NHS.

This is what would happen in a Tier 4 lockdown...

 No in-house socialising but six people from two households can meet in public and outdoors.

 Hospitality premises closed apart from food for hotel guests. Hotel and B&B accommodation would be for essential use only.

 No non-essential travel into or out of level four areas. There may be a limit on travel distance and a requirement to stay at home. Exemptions for work-related or education travel or for essential shopping, outdoor exercise, weddings or funerals, or travelling through one area to another.

 No use of public transport except for essential purposes. Face coverings compulsory.

 Non-essential retail closed.

 Hairdressers, barbers and beauticians closed.

 Public buildings like libraries closed.

 No public events permitted. Stadia closed to spectators.

 Religious services restricted to 20 people.

 Maximum of five people (six if an interpreter is required) at weddings, no receptions. No more than 20 at funerals and wakes.

 Formal childcare open subject to targeted intervention with impact on capacity.

 Schools open with enhanced and targeted protective measures, colleges and universities with restricted blended learning.

 Gyms closed. Outdoor non- contact sport only, apart from professionals.

 All leisure and entertainment closed.

 Visitor attractions closed.

 Essential face-to-face public health services only.

 Only permitted essential workplaces may open as well as outdoor construction and manufacturing.