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No more than three households to mix in run up to Christmas advises Nicola Sturgeon as Omicron surges

© PAFirst Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

People in Scotland have been advised to limit the number of households mixing in the run up to Christmas to three.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon made the announcement as the Covid-19 variant Omicron continues to grow across the country.

The advice doesn’t affect  Christmas Day itself, she said, but that people should reduce their social contacts with other households “as far as possible”.

She also asked that people take lateral flow tests before mixing over the festive period.

The Scottish Government will also ask retail and hospitality businesses to reintroduce social distancing measures and screens.

Sturgeon told MSPs that Scotland is facing a “likely tsunami” of new infections of Covid-19 in the weeks ahead, with a “very significant” impact on the NHS.

She also argued it was “not acceptable” that there was no additional funding yet available from the UK Government to support businesses affected by the measures she is introducing and said: “Our public health response is curtailed by lack of finance”.

She added: “There are further steps we could and would have considered today, particularly around hospitality, had we the financial ability to do so. But we don’t.

“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.”

Booster jags

Addressing the coronavirus vaccine booster scheme, the first minister said all over 18s should be able to book appointments online from Wednesday, December 15.

But Sturgeon said she could not guarantee that all adults would be able to be vaccinated by the new year, citing “vaccination staff absences” as one of the reasons.

She added: “We are aiming to reach as close as possible to 80% uptake by the end of December, with the balance of appointments taking place in January.”

Omicron rates increasing

Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament that the Omicron variant is “spreading very rapidly” in Scotland, with cases “increasing exponentially” and doubling every two to three days.

She said that even if the new strain proves milder than the previously dominant Delta variant, the fact it spreads much faster could still put “significant” pressure on health services.

The first minister said action was needed “in the face of a threat that is very real”.