Covid in Scotland: Limit contacts to three households before and after Christmas, Sturgeon says

People don't have to change their plans for Christmas, but Nicola Sturgeon said she does want people to limit their socialising before and after to just three households

People in Scotland have been told to limit their socialising to three households including their own before and after Christmas to help combat the Omicron coronavirus variant.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also told Scots it would be "sensible" to keep Christmas Day celebrations "as small as your family circumstances allow".

She insisted she was "not asking anyone to cancel Christmas" but said people "must take Omicron extremely seriously".

Care home visits should be limited to two households, the first minister said, adding that she wants schools to remain open "if at all possible".

The advice to limit social gatherings will not be enforceable in law, Ms Sturgeon told MSPs, but allowing staff to work from home where possible will again become a legal duty on employers. She later repeated her message in a broadcast statement.

The SNP leader urged Scots to test themselves for coronavirus before meeting people as an extra precaution.

Covid booster jabs are being rolled out across the UK. Credit: PA Images

Ms Sturgeon also urged businesses to return to the kind of protections in place at the start of the pandemic, with measures to reduce crowding and promote social distancing.

She said there are two people with Omicron in Scottish hospitals currently, adding that the variant is "spreading very rapidly", faster "than anything experienced in the pandemic so far".

Even if the variant is less dangerous than Delta, as has been reported, it's high transmissibility means "more people infected will result in more severe illness and, tragically, more people will die", she said.

She said Omicron is expected to become dominant in Scotland within days because it "is significantly more transmissible than Delta".

The Delta Covid variant is currently dominant in the UK.

On the booster jab campaign, Ms Sturgeon said all over-18s should be able to book appointments online from Wednesday.

Despite data showing vaccines provide around 70% protection against Omicron, she said booster jabs "will not be sufficient" in the short term.

The Covid measures already in place in Scotland:

  • Face masks - Everyone in Scotland over the age of 12 is required to wear a face covering in almost all indoor settings, including: shops, hospitality venues and public transport

  • Vaccine passports - Everyone over the age of 18 is required to prove they' are fully vaccinated or have received a negative test result before entering any large indoor venue, such as nightclubs, and all outdoor settings attended by more than 10,000 people

  • Self-isolation - Adults who come into contact with a case of Omicron must self-isolate for 10 days, regardless of their vaccine status

  • Test and Protect - As they once were in England under test and trace, hospitality venues in Scotland are required to request contact details of customers so they can be traced by health officials

  • Christmas parties - It is not a strict rule, however people have been told to consider postponing any events they have planned in the following weeks

  • Social distancing - The two metre rule still applies in Scottish health care settings, such as hospitals, GP surgeries and dentists

  • Work from home - People have been advised to work from home in Scotland

The first minister told the Scottish Parliament she does not agree with Prime Minister Boris Johnson's decision not to introduce measures and said it was "not acceptable" that the Westminster government had not provided Scotland with new funding to help businesses manage.

"However, I can confirm that with some considerable difficulty, we have managed to identify within our own resources around £100 million that we will use to help businesses, mainly those in hospitality and food supply, affected by our advice last week on work Christmas parties and further affected by what I have said today."

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It comes after the UK recorded its first Omicron death, with more than 4,700 cases already identified.

Boris Johnson said it shows "the idea that this is somehow a milder version of the virus... that's something we need to set on one side and just recognise the sheer pace at which it accelerates through the population".

All first ministers in the UK held a digital meeting with minister Michael Gove last Friday to discuss a response to the Omicron variant after Ms Sturgeon said a "tsunami of infections" was coming.

Other nations of the UK have so far resisted pressure to introduce further Covid restrictions ahead of Christmas, however none have ruled out new measures.

In full: Nicola Sturgeon's broadcast to Scotland