Nicola Sturgeon warns Scots to stay at home for New Year’s Eve as record numbers test positive in one day

‘Reduce your contact as much as possible, even over Hogmanay,’ pleads first minister

Jane Dalton
Wednesday 29 December 2021 15:57 GMT
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Nicola Sturgeon warns Scots to stay at home for New Year’s Eve

Scotland’s first minister has pleaded with people to stay at home as much as possible in the next two weeks, including on New Year’s Eve, as record numbers tested positive in one day in the country.

“The period ahead will not be an easy one,” Nicola Sturgeon warned, asking people to get vaccinated and to test themselves regularly to help limit the spread of the Omicron Covid variant.

“Stay at home right now more than normal and reduce your contact as much as possible, even over Hogmanay,” she said.

“If you do visit indoor public places, limit the number of households in your group, to three at most, wear face coverings on public transport and in shops, and when moving around in hospitality,” Ms Sturgeon warned, advising people to ensure their masks fully covered their nose and mouth.

The Omicron wave is rapidly developing and the number of cases overall has increased by 47 per cent, Ms Sturgeon added.

Another 15,849 positive cases were recorded on Tuesday, a one-day record in the pandemic to date, and 80 more people were in hospital than on Tuesday.

On hospital admissions, she said there were some grounds for optimism, possibly with a significantly lower chance of people needing hospital treatment than with earlier strains.

But she said she expected steep increases in cases next month. “We need to show extra caution for at least two more weeks,” she said, adding that rising numbers of people needing hospital treatment for Covid in England may indicate what is to come in Scotland.

She reiterated the latest restrictions, which will be in place until at least 17 January, including limits on large events such as Hogmanay celebrations, table service at pubs and restaurants, one-metre distancing between different groups and the closure of nightclubs.

“Given the speed and extent of transmission now, it is vital that we continue to take sensible precautions and limit social interactions for a further period, as we learn more about the likely impact of this wave of infection and complete the booster programme,” the first minister added.

“The new protective measures relating to hospitality, public indoor places and live events that I set out last week are now in force.”

For indoor standing events, numbers of people are limited to 100; for indoor seated events, 200; and for outdoor events it is 500.

The higher transmissibility of Omicron, risks from travelling and demands on emergency services all justified limits on the size of gatherings, Ms Sturgeon said.

Ms Sturgeon also pleaded with people to get their booster jabs as soon as possible.

She also said no decision had been reached about whether to exempt or shorten isolation requirements for key workers in critical services, saying ministers hoped to reach decisions in the next week, with any changes taking effect from 5 January.

But coronavirus testing will be prioritised for essential workers with test supply and processing capacity “under pressure”, she announced.

However, Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross called for changes to isolation rules, accusing Ms Sturgeon of indecision.

Citing a study that showed Omicron was more transmissible but the effects were less severe, Mr Ross questioned why no decision had been made.

He said household contacts should be able to reduce isolation from 10 to seven days with two negative PCR tests.

At the same time, Ms Sturgeon gave Scotland’s businesses a breakdown of a £100m package to support them through curbs introduced to limit the spread of Omicron.

Public transport in Scotland will receive £16m; cultural businesses will be handed £27m; £32m will be given to hospitality and leisure, and £5m to nightclubs required to close.

“There simply isn’t an easy trade-off between protecting health and the economy,” she said.

“This has been another really difficult year, but despite these renewed challenges we face, I firmly believe, largely because of vaccination, tha 2022 will be a better year.”

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