Public Health Scotland has asked Scots to “defer” their plans for festive gatherings after a series of coronavirus outbreaks linked to parties.
“To help minimise the further spread of Covid-19, and omicron in particular, I would strongly urge people to defer their Christmas parties to another time,” said Dr Nick Phin, director of public health science at Public Health Scotland.
It comes as Boris Johnson comes under pressure over Christmas parties held at Downing Street during last year’s lockdown restrictions – with Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon calling on the PM to resign over the scandal.
Mr Johnson has brought in plan B measures for England asking people to work from home again – but he has encouraged people south of the border to carry on with their Christmas parties.
In his plea to Christmas revellers in Scotland, Dr Phin said: “We still need to learn more about the severity of disease caused by Omicron and the effectiveness of vaccines, but there are important things that we can do to help protect ourselves and our families now.”
The Scottish health chief added: “I appreciate that everyone is keen to celebrate this festive season, particularly after the pressures of the last 20 months, but by postponing some plans we can all do our bit to protect ourselves and our loved ones.”
The UK is going to see a “really rather large wave of Omicron” and deaths in the next few months, a scientist advising government said on Thursday. Prof John Edmunds said: “We’re getting large numbers of cases and that will result in a large number of hospitalisations and, unfortunately, it will result in a large number of deaths.”
Responding to plan B measures for England – including work for home guidance and Covid passports for many venues – Ms Sturgeon said “all these protections are already in place in Scotland and have helped us get Delta cases down”.
Raising the prospect of further restrictions for Scots, the SNP leader said on Thursday that the “tough question we all face in period ahead is whether these protections will be strong enough against a rapidly spreading Omicron variant”.
Under plan B people in England are being told to work from home if they can from next week – but Mr Johnson said it was still possible for employees to attend Christmas parties. Some have pointed out that guidance would not stop colleagues gathering at a pub to do their jobs.
Meanwhile, Ms Sturgeon has urged the PM to support temporarily waive intellectual property rights for coronavirus jabs in a move she said would boost the number given out in poorer countries.
In a letter to Mr Johnson, she said the move would better support developing countries in their battle against Covid, and would mean the UK joining more than 100 other countries in supporting the temporary rights suspension.
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