Expect 'slight and careful' approach to Christmas, Nicola Sturgeon says
Nicola Sturgeon has said she expects there to be a “slight and careful” easing of coronavirus restrictions at Christmas – but not at New Year.
Sturgeon said a UK-wide approach to Christmas would be announced later in the week, but said that it is “likely” that some households might be able to mix for a short period over Christmas.
But she added that people should consider whether they really need to visit family or friends when there is a risk that doing so could lead to an increased loss of life and a surge of infections in January.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to give an update on plans for Christmas later on Monday, but Sturgeon said the Scottish Government would finalise its decisions later in the week.
She suggested that households will be able to form “slightly larger bubbles” for a short period over Christmas.
But she added that the number of households allowed to mix is unlikely to be more than two or three.
She said that decisions to ease restrictions over the festive period are a “particularly difficult balance to strike” and added that the public seem to have mixed feelings about the prospect as well.
“We’re trying as hard as we can to reach a sensible balance,” she said.
Sturgeon also announced that the Scottish Government plans to set out the “precautions” people should take if they do plan to take advantage of the lessened restrictions.
She said that flexibility would be important because of isolation and loneliness, which she said “can hit people particularly hard over the Christmas period”.
But she encouraged people to consider whether they really need to visit friends or family over Christmas, and suggested that it could be wise to wait until the Spring if possible.
She said: “We will remind families that just because you might be able to mix a bit more indoors over Christmas in a limited way, that doesn't mean you have to do that if you don't think it is necessary or you can get through Christmas without it.
“We will ask people to think very carefully about if you really need to travel and visit indoors, or if there might be other ways, for example through technology or by meeting people outside, in which you can ensure your loved ones are well without taking risks.
“And it's maybe worth everybody asking themselves now: do we need to visit family or friends over Christmas? Because if we feel we don't have to, then delaying a visit until the Spring, especially if that visit involves travel, may be the better option.”
Sturgeon revealed that she does not plan to celebrate with her family in the usual way and suggested she might not visit her parents until it is safer to do so.
She said: “I feel a longing to be with family, particularly over the Christmas period. [But] I think most of us realise that if the price of that is more loss of life and to have a surge of infection in January, then perhaps we should continue to be cautious."
Sturgeon admitted that decisions to allow more flexibility over Christmas were driven in part by an understanding that some people will try to “push the boundaries” to see loved ones.
“Rather than just allow that to be sort of uncontrolled, we were coming at this from: 'right, how do we build in a bit of flexibility for everybody, without throwing caution to the wind?'” she said.
Sturgeon made the comments during her daily coronavirus press conference on Monday.
The latest daily statistics showed 949 people had tested positive in the previous 24 hours, representing 8.6 per cent of new tests.
No deaths had been recorded in the previous 24 hours, although that is common on Mondays because many registry offices close on Sundays.
There were 1,208 people in hospital, an increase of 38, and 84 people in intensive care.
Sturgeon said that she did not expect many changes to be announced to councils’ COVID-19 levels in a review of restrictions on Tuesday.
But she did say that East Lothian Council is likely to move down to level two restrictions as of Friday.
Sturgeon said that the best way to make Christmas as safe as possible is for people to stick to the existing restrictions.
She said: “And of course, the discussion about Christmas reinforces one fundamental point. The best way of making life as safe as it possibly can be right now is to reduce the number of people who are infectious and that means continuing to abide by all the rules as they stand right now.
“The existing rules and restrictions are intended to achieve that. So I ask you please to continue to stick with them.”