Scotland reported another record number of daily Covid cases on Wednesday but there will be no immediate changes to restrictions.
First minister Nicola Sturgeon said 15,849 cases were reported in the last 24 hours, with a positivity rate at 28.9%.
An increase of 80 people was reported in hospital numbers, taking the total to 679, while three deaths were also recorded. 36 people are in intensive care, a decrease of one.
Sturgeon said the wave of the Omicron variant was “rapidly developing” in Scotland and that even higher numbers of cases are likely going forward.
The variant now accounts for 80% of cases, she added, urging people to limit social interactions and take “sensible precautions”.
The first minister urged people who haven’t had a third dose of the vaccine to book their booster as soon as possible, or to bring appointments forward, saying there were plenty of slots available in the coming days.
No new restrictions
Sturgeon said she will not introduce further coronavirus restrictions at this stage because coronavirus cases in Scotland’s hospitals have “remained broadly stable”.
Urging people to “exercise caution”, she said: “It is encouraging that, at least until now, the rise in cases experienced over the past few weeks has not translated into a corresponding rise in hospital admissions or occupancy.
“On the contrary, the number of people in hospital with Covid has so far remained broadly stable.
“I would expect that within the next couple of weeks, we will have a clearer picture and that this will then help us reach informed judgments about the most proportionate response going forward.
“In the meantime, however, while we better understand the impacts and while more and more of us get the added protection of booster vaccinations – which will help reduce the impacts – we must try to avoid the sheer volume of cases overwhelming us.
“That is why it is prudent, indeed essential, that we slow transmission as much as possible.”
The first minister reiterated advice from before Christmas about limiting the size of indoor gatherings to no more than three households, and reducing social contacts.
She advised people to take lateral flow tests every time they were meeting up with other households.
The current restrictions
Restrictions in Scotland include limits on large events including Hogmanay celebrations, table service at pubs and restaurants, one-metre distancing between different groups and the closure of nightclubs.
Nicola Sturgeon said the latest rules will be in place until at least January 17.
Setting out the allocation of £100 million of a £275 million business support fund, she said: “£16 million will be made available to support public transport providers through existing Covid support schemes.
“£27 million will go to the culture sector, and a further £17 million to the events sector.
“A further £32 million will be allocated to hospitality and leisure businesses, with an additional £10 million for those parts of the hospitality industry most severely impacted by the requirement for table service.
“And up to £5 million will be available for nightclubs required to close.”
Sturgeon continued: “Councils are now working to get that money into bank accounts as fast as possible. And decisions on the allocation of the remaining funds will be confirmed following consultation with affected sectors on how it can best be targeted.”
Coronavirus testing will be prioritised for essential workers with test supply and processing capacity “under pressure”, Nicola Sturgeon has announced.
The first minister also said no decision had been reached about whether to exempt or shorten isolation requirements for key workers in “critical services”.
She said ministers “hope to reach decisions in the next week with any changes taking effect from January 5”.
On coronavirus testing, Ms Sturgeon said: “The current surge in cases means testing capacity – sampling and processing – is under pressure.
“So we are now prioritising some slots for essential workers – such as NHS and transport staff – as well as for those who are clinically vulnerable or eligible for new Covid treatments.
“This ensures that essential workers get the test results they need to qualify for an exemption promptly.”
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