Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced Scots will be able to go ahead with their Christmas Day plans, but has pleaded with the public to “stay at home much more than you normally would”.
After the Omicron variant was first found in the UK three weeks ago, it has been confirmed that the strain is now the dominant variant in Scotland.
The First Minister did however urge those taking part in plans to limit their household mixing prior to the day to reduce the further spread Omicron. She told parliament the Scottish Government is suggesting households should be limited to three around Christmas Day.
She described the emergence of Omicron as a “cruellest of blows” ahead of the festive period, but was confident that Scotland was in a stronger position to face a waves of cases.
What did Nicola Sturgeon say about Christmas Day?
Ms Sturgeon confirmed there will be no limits on households mixing on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day to accommodate those who have already made plans to visit friends and family.
However, she has asked those taking part in Christmas plans on these days to reduce contacts prior to meeting to reduce surging cases of Covid-19 and the Omicron variant, which Ms Sturgeon said is likely to become Scotland’s dominant strain within the “next few days”.
Those in Scotland are being asked to limit their social mixing with other people to a maximum of three households in the run up to the big day, but this will not be made a legal requirement.
Ms Sturgeon said: “My fundamental ask of everyone right now is this – in the run up to Christmas stay at home much more than you normally would, and stay at home as much as you can.
“If what matters most to you is spending time with your loved on Christmas Day, don’t risk that by going out before then and possibly catching Covid.
“Because the reality is if you are mixing with others just now, getting this virus is a real and increasing risk. Covid, in this new Omicron form, is circulating really widely right now, and it is very, very infectious.”
The First Minister also put an emphasis on the importance of vaccinations, testing before meeting with others and ventilation while mixing with other indoors during the busy festive period, and also confirmed that places of worship will be open on and around Christmas Day.
What else did Nicola Sturgeon announce in her Covid update?
Alongside the announcement that Christmas Day has been given the go-ahead, Ms Sturgeon also announced that businesses will be asked to re-implement Covid measures to slow the spread , including track and trace in hospitality venues and social distancing and screens in retail venues.
There was also be a return to a legal requirement to work from home where possible.
Those who cannot work from home and must attend work in person will be asked to increase their at-home testing to limit the spread of the virus.
Care home visits in Scotland will be limited to two people and all visitors will be asked to take a lateral flow test before visiting.
Schools will remain open “if at all possible” to limit the disruption to the education of Scotland’s young people.
What did Nicola Sturgeon say about vaccines in her update?
Scotland has marked its highest amount of vaccine handed out in one day, with almost 70,000 jabs handed out on Wednesday 16 December alone.
Ms Sturgeon said: ““Yesterday saw the highest number of vaccinations we have ever delivered in a single day - 67,016 first, second and third jags were delivered and of these 63,327 were booster and third jags.
“In the past four days alone more than 220,000 booster and third jags have been administered.”
The First Minister issued a further push to get the whole of Scotland boosted, adding that the country faces Omicron in a “so much better a position now than this time last year because of vaccination.”
She said: “Every booster put into someone’s arm right now is another brick in this wall of protection that I do believe will increasingly defend us against Omicron as we go into the New Year.”
“We want as many people as possible to get boosted by the time the bells strike on Hogmanay.”
How many Covid-19 cases are there in Scotland?
The First Minister confirmed on Thursday 17 December that there were 4,336 new daily Covid-19 cases recorded in Scotland - representing 10.1% of all tests taken.
522 people were in hospital with recently confirmed Covid-19 and 33 people were in intensive care.
Seven new deaths had been recorded.
A message from the editor:
Thank you for reading. NationalWorld is a new national news brand, produced by a team of journalists, editors, video producers and designers who live and work across the UK. Find out more about who’s who in the team, and our editorial values. We want to start a community among our readers, so please follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and keep the conversation going. You can also sign up to our email newsletters and get a curated selection of our best reads to your inbox every day.