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Coronavirus / People encouraged to reduce social contact with other households before and after Christmas

First minister Nicola Sturgeon said when people are socialising at home or in public venues, the advice is to limit their group to three households

First minister Nicola Sturgeon. Photo: Scottish Government

PEOPLE in Scotland are being encouraged to limit social contact with other households before and after Christmas Day, first minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced.

When people are socialising at home or in public venues, the advice is to limit their group to three households.

The advice – which is not law – was set out by Sturgeon in an update to the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday amid concern over the rise of the Omicron variant of Covid.

She said it is increasingly exponentially – and at a faster rate than any other variant.

Sturgeon said some are suggesting Omicron may be milder in impact on individual health but “we don’t know if that is the case” – and some initial evidence in Denmark may suggest otherwise.

But the government’s thinking is that even if the health impact is milder, higher infection rates would result in a greater number of people needing hospital treatment.

The first minister added that there are no limits advised for Christmas Day or when people have their main festive family gathering.

Sturgeon also confirmed that businesses will be made to increase their Covid protection measures, which could include social distancing, screens and taking customers’ details for any future contact tracing. More details will be released in due course.

The first minister explained that Omicron has a “very high attack rate” – meaning that if one person is infected in a group, it is likely to spread to more people compared to other variants.

The Scottish Government also hopes to have everyone in the country aged 18 and over offered a Covid booster vaccine by the end of December. Boosters will be prioritised over flu jabs.

The requirement to wait 15 minutes after a vaccination has also now been removed in Scotland in a bid to speed up the booster programme.

Sturgeon praised the “Herculean effort” of vaccinators across the country.

Meanwhile chief executive of Shetland Islands Council Maggie Sandison said she and her senior management team hase been discussing the situation this afternoon.

“We’re working closely with our partner organisations, and the council’s managers and staff have been revisiting our resilience and continuity plans as levels of the latest variant rise across the country,” she said.

“There is inevitably a high risk to our services due to any rise in staff absence.  We’d ask for the public’s patience and understanding if we have to step down, restrict or deprioritise services at any point.

“We will obviously communicate any changes to the public as soon as possible should that happen.”