Sturgeon: Restrict socialising to three households before and after Christmas

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Nicola Sturgeon has urged people across Scotland to limit their socialising to three households before and after Christmas to help combat the “exponential” rise of the Omicron coronavirus variant.

Scotland’s First Minister said she is not asking people to “cancel” Christmas and is not proposing limits on the size of household gatherings on Christmas Day, Boxing Day or Christmas Eve but that “keeping your celebrations as small as family circumstances allow is sensible”.

She warned people “must take Omicron extremely seriously” as the country recorded 110 new cases of the variant in the past 24 hours, taking the overall number to 296, with two people in hospital confirmed to have the strain.

The First Minister said: “My key request today is this: before and immediately after Christmas, please minimise your social mixing with other households as much as you can.

“However, if you do plan on socialising, either at home or in indoor public places, we are asking that you limit the number of households represented in your group to a maximum of three. And make sure you test before you go.”

She added: “Turning to Christmas Day specifically, or Christmas Eve or Boxing Day or whenever you have your main family celebration, we are not asking you to cancel or change your plans, and we are not proposing limits on the size of household gatherings.”

Legal restrictions for businesses will be introduced involving “a return to the kind of protections in place at the start of the pandemic” to avoid crowding, such as physical distancing, while enabling staff to work from home where possible will again become a legal duty.

Ms Sturgeon said £100 million will be used to help businesses “mainly those in hospitality and food supply” affected by the changes and the advice last week to defer Christmas parties.

A further £100 million will go to self-isolation support grant to cover the increase in the expected level of people eligible.

Further restrictions include limiting care home visits to two households, with all visitors asked to take a coronavirus test before attending.

The First Minister said she wants schools to remain open “if at all possible” to limit any further disruption to pupils’ education.

She urged people to get fully vaccinated and said booster jags will take priority over the flu vaccine to help speed up rollout.

The Government is seeking venues to use as drop-in vaccination centres and people will no longer be required to wait for 15 minutes after their vaccination to cut queues.

“We will continue to expand the size of the overall vaccination workforce as much as possible and make full use of any military support that is available,” Ms Sturgeon said.

“Getting fully vaccinated is the best thing any of us can do to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and the country. So please, book your booster jag as soon as possible.”

All over-18s should be able to book appointments online from Wednesday but the First Minister said she could not guarantee that all adults would be able to be vaccinated by the new year, citing “vaccination staff absences” as one of the reasons.

She added: “We are aiming to reach as close as possible to 80% uptake by the end of December, with the balance of appointments taking place in January.”

Douglas Ross
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said mass vaccination centres should have been opened earlier (Fraser Bremner/Daily Mail/PA)

He claimed: “The Scottish Government have delayed and now they are scrambling to find venues at the last minute.”

But he demanded: “Why has it taken so long for the Government to accept our calls and agree to launch mass vaccination centres, that were so crucial and successful in the original rollout of the vaccine.”

Meanwhile, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar urged people to continue to do their “duty” in the ongoing fight against Covid-19.

“I know how hard this must be for families across Scotland after almost two years of the pandemic, but we can not let our guard slip or let our resolve weaken at this crucial moment.

“We all have a duty to protect each other and do what is in the best interests of our country and the NHS.”

Ms Sturgeon reiterated the changes she announced in a televised address on Tuesday evening, urging people to “pull together”.

She said: “If we don’t act now to protect health, Omicron will inflict untold damage on businesses and critical services across Scotland.”

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