Nicola Sturgeon urges Scots to take Covid test before ‘any social occasion’

Scottish first minister also announces government will not extend Covid passport scheme to other venues

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Tuesday 23 November 2021 15:23
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Nicola Sturgeon has urged the Scottish public to use Covid lateral flow tests before socialising and shopping in crowded places to stop “inadvertently passing the virus on”.

Making the “vitally important” request, the first minister minister pleaded with Scots that on “any occasion that you are socialising with others”, including for drinks, dinners, and shopping, “please take a test before you go”.

“And if it is positive, do not go. Instead get a PCR test and self-isolate while you wait for the result,” she added. “This way, you are minimising the risk of inadvertently passing the virus on even if you don’t have symptoms.”

The Scottish first minister also announced, however, that the Covid passport scheme will not be extended to more venues — despite the situation north of the border remaining “precarious”.

It comes after she revealed last week that the cabinet had been discussing expanding the programme to include cinemas, theatres and pubs, in response to a gradual increase in transmission.

Under the current system those over the age of 18 are required to demonstrate they have had both doses of a Covid-19 vaccine in order to gain entry to nightclubs, adult entertainment venues, unseated indoor events with more than 500 people, unseated outdoor events with more than 4,000 people, any any event with more than 10,000 people present.

But in her statement on Tuesday, Ms Sturgeon said it would “not be proportionate” to extend the use of Covid passports “at this stage”.

“We were also mindful of the need over the coming weeks of getting across the message that it is important to be vaccinated and tested ahead of socialising in any setting — including in homes and shopping centres, for example — not just in those that might be covered by a certification scheme,” she said.

From December 6, the first minister said, however, proof of a negative lateral flow will also be used to access nightclubs or large events — rather than just proof of a Covid-19 vaccine.

She also confirmed there will be no further changes to remaining regulations, such as mask-wearing and home-working.

Amid a surge in case in some parts of mainland Europe, Ms Sturgeon said “we can see very clearly that the Covid situation is deteriorating again” with some government’s reimposing restrictions.

“All of this is a stark reminder that the threat of the pandemic is not yet behind us,” she added.

“Covid is continuing to force governments everywhere to take really difficult decisions. This is also true here in Scotland. While, thankfully, we are not at this stage seeing the rapid rise in cases that others are experiencing, the situation does remain precarious.”

As the festive period approaches, she went on: “People will be socialising and mixing more than normal. So even though our position now is relatively stable compared to some other countries, we must continue to take care and not allow ourselves to be lulled into any false sense of security.”

It comes as first minister Paul Givan said the Northern Ireland executive was “very much united” in urging the public to play its part in slowing the spread of Covid-19.

Speaking to the media following an agreement to reinforcedCovid measures, Mr Givan said they had considered a number of papers from Health Minister Robin Swann.

He said: “We are all very much united in asking the public to play its part along with us as politicians, that we can take every effort to try and minimise the transmission rate of the coronavirus.

“So we appeal again to redouble our efforts when it comes to trying to minimise some of those contacts, whenever it comes to having good ventilation, where you are meeting indoors try to meet outdoors more often.

“And we are emphasising that need to work from home where you can and for employers to support that.

“We recognise that in some circumstances that isn’t possible and practically people do need to be in their workplace.”

He added: “There is hope that we can come through this period over the next number of weeks by making that collective effort and taking personal responsibility seriously.”

Later, when asked if Boris Johnson would follow the lead of Scotland and Northern Ireland by advising people in England to work from home, the prime minister’s official spokesperson said: “There are no plans to do that here.

“That would be potentially one of the measures we could introduce under the plan B that there is nothing in the data to suggest that it is required.

“While cases have slightly increased in recent days, we’re still seeing hospitalisations and deaths decline, which is pleasing. But we won’t be complacent and that’s why we still want people to come forward and get their booster jobs and anyone who still hasn’t had the first and second doses to take them up.”

The spokesperson said that official guidance in England had been updated last week to say that people “may wish to take a lateral flow test” if they are expecting to be in a higher risk situation, such as prolonged contact with others or visiting a vulnerable person. But he said the government was not being “prescriptive” about whether this might apply to situations such as Christmas shopping.

“It’s a sensible common-sense approach to managing your own risk in order to protect others around you,” he said. “We have free testing available, we encourage people to use it.”

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