First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced in Scottish Parliament today that there will be new guidance in regards to household gatherings. Addressing MSPs at Holyrood this afternoon, the First Minister suggested that people socialising – either at home or in indoor public places – limit the number of households they meet with to a maximum of three, but this is not restricted in law.
This announcement comes as the number of infections has risen with 3,117 new cases of Covid-19 reported in the past 24 hours. Nicola Sturgeon has also expressed concerns over the Omicron variant since this Covid-19 variant makes up 27.5% of cases in Scotland, and this is an increase from 15%, which was recorded last Friday (December 10). She also reiterated the doubling time of this variant is two or three days and its R number well over two and possibly above four, which saw the First Minister introduce changes to self-isolation guidance last week.
The First Minister said in her statement: “We are not banning or restricting household mixing in law as before. We understand the negative impact this has on mental health and wellbeing. But we are asking everyone – and we will issue strong guidance to this effect – to cut down as far as possible the number of people outside our own households that we are interacting with just now. This will help break transmission chains.”
In respect of Christmas Day and Boxing Day plans there are no limits on the size of household gatherings, with the First Minister saying she is not “asking anyone to ‘cancel’ Christmas” but instead is “asking everyone to reduce as far as possible, and to a minimum, the contacts we have with people in other households.” However, she has advised that people take precautions to make celebrations safer – including making sure people are vaccinated and have done a test in advance, as well as keep rooms ventilated and following strict hygiene rules. Places of worship will also remain open, with appropriate mitigations and guidance to help you make Christmas safer issued.
However, a new legal requirement for those running businesses or providing services will be introduced as part of measures to minimise the risk of Omicron transmission. Plus, it will again be a legal requirement for employers to allow staff to work from home where possible.
In retail, it will involve a return to the type of protections which were in place at the start of the pandemic – including physical distancing and measures to control the flow of customers and protective screens. For hospitality, it will be a legal requirement to put measures in place to avoid crowding at bars and between tables, and a reminder of the requirement to collect contact details of customers to help with contact tracing. In addition, it will again be a legal requirement for employers to enable staff to work from home where possible.
For all guidance and information on Covid-19 restrictions, head to the Scottish Government website here.