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Covid in Scotland: Large scale events cancelled and indoor hospitality rules to return after Christmas

Edinburgh's Hogmanay Street Party has been cancelled.
Edinburgh's Hogmanay Street Party has been cancelled.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced that from Boxing Day, for three weeks, a limit will be put on the size of public events allowed to take place.

The limit for indoor standing events will be 100 people, for indoor seated events it will be 200 and for outdoor events it will be 500 whether seated or standing.

Speaking to MSPs today, Sturgeon said these rules will not apply to private life events such as weddings but that for all events, physical distancing of 1m will apply.

A requirement for table service only will also be reintroduced for venues serving alcohol for consumption on the premises, and people meeting indoors at home or in hospitality or leisure venues should be in groups of no more than three households.

She added that this will make sports matches, including football, effectively spectator-free over this three week period.

It also means that large-scale Hogmanay celebrations – including Edinburgh’s Hogmanay – have to be cancelled.

She said: “I know how disappointing this will be for those looking forward to these events, and for the organisers of them.”

While one teaching union has called for a delay to the start of the next term, Sturgeon said it remains a priority to re-open schools as normal after the holidays.

This year’s Christmas will be “more normal” than last year’s despite the newly announced restrictions, the first minister said.

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She told MSPs: “Just a few days before Christmas, I am again urging people to stay at home as much as possible, to slow down a highly infectious new variant.

“But, although it may not feel like it, we are in a much stronger position than last year.

“We have had far fewer restrictions in place for much of this year than was the case last year.

“Christmas Day will be more normal.

“Most importantly, a rapidly increasing number of adults is now protected by three doses of vaccine.”

The restrictions announcement comes as the Omicron variant becomes the most dominant Covid-19 strain in Scotland, representing nearly 63% of all cases.

The first minister told MSPs the true picture in terms of the proportion of Omicron cases who will need hospital care is not yet known.

She added there is “still no compelling evidence that Omicron is intrinsically milder than previous strains”.

But Sturgeon said even if fewer people need hospital care the volume of infections mean the new variant will still have a “deeply damaging impact”.

The advice for Christmas remains unchanged – taking a lateral flow test before meeting up, isolating if a test is positive, and following hygiene advice and keep windows open.

Between now and Christmas Day, the first minister has asked us to cut our contacts with people in other households as much as possible.

From 27 December, she asks us to go back to limiting contacts as much as possible and to apply this to New Year socialising too.