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Nicola Sturgeon to give update amid concerns over rising cases of Omicron variant

© Andy Buchanan/PA WireFirst Minister Nicola Sturgeon
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon will hold a briefing on the Omicron variant of Covid-19 on Friday as cases continue to rise.

The first minister will be joined by Scotland’s chief medical officer Gregor Smith and national clinical director Jason Leitch at St Andrew’s House in Edinburgh at 12.15pm.

It has been reported that she may choose to introduce tougher restrictions to curb the highly infectious new strain, but this is yet to be confirmed.

Earlier this week, Sturgeon said cases of the Omicron variant has increased tenfold over seven days.

She told employers that if they had staff working from home at the start of the pandemic they should enable them to do so again until at least the middle of January.

Coronavirus in Scotland – track the spread with these charts

Christmas parties

Advice from Public Health Scotland (PHS) on Thursday also recommended people to cancel plans for Christmas parties.

Dr Nick Phin, the director of public health science and medical director at PHS, urged people to put off their parties this festive season to help in the fight against coronavirus.

“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,” he said.

The call came as Scotland has reported another new Omicron case on Thursday, bringing the total to 109.

In his plea to Christmas revellers, Dr Phin said: “There is much that we still need to learn about Omicron, but early evidence suggests that this new Covid variant is much more transmissible.

“The impact of this transmissibility has been seen in recent weeks, with a number of Omicron outbreaks linked to parties.

“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.

“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 health body urged people to test at least twice weekly with lateral flow devices, and each time they are socialising with people outside their household.

It also said that as well as vaccinating and getting boosters, people should follow other public health advice including handwashing and wearing face-masks.

The latest statistics on Thursday said a total of 4,358,725 people have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccination in Scotland, 3,967,477 have received their second dose, and 2,000,915 have received a third dose or booster.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Public health advice is rapidly developing given the fast pace of the spread of this new variant. We would encourage everyone to follow the advice from Public Health Scotland.”

Leon Thompson, UKHospitality’s executive director for Scotland, said: “Hospitality businesses in Scotland are already under severe financial pressure and this advice from Public Health Scotland for people to abandon their plans for Christmas parties is already hitting our sector hard.

“Within minutes of their statement being issued, businesses were receiving cancellations, leaving Christmas and Hogmanay trade in tatters.”