Nicola Sturgeon: ‘Avoid indoor meetings on Christmas Day’
Nicola Sturgeon has urged people not to meet indoors on Christmas Day as it emerged 18 cases of the new variant of the virus have been detected in Scotland.
Following the announcement on Saturday that the easing of restrictions over the Christmas period would be limited to Christmas Day itself, the First Minister warned of the risks of meeting other households indoors and urged people to only meet up outside.
During the daily coronavirus briefing, Sturgeon said that none of the actions announced on Saturday were taken lightly and said concern about the new strain had “necessitated the very stringent actions”.
“We know this strain already exists in Scotland - though we think it is still at lower levels than in the south of England,” she said.
Sturgeon added: “The analysis so far of the new variant of COVID that has been identified in the UK does give us real cause for concern - because the indications are that it is much more transmissible.
“Let me stress though that there is no evidence so far that this new strain causes more severe illness, and I think that is reassuring.
“Further analysis of this new strain is being carried out, so there is much we still have to learn about it, but given what we have been advised so far, it is essential to take the risk seriously and act accordingly.”
The First Minister said that the travel ban between Scotland and other parts of the UK will not be eased at any point during the festive season, not even on Christmas Day, as it will be for travel within Scotland.
But she stressed that while travel is permitted in Scotland on Christmas Day, it is still recommended that families should only mix indoors if absolutely necessary.
She said: “My advice is not to meet indoors at all, even on Christmas Day, if you can possibly avoid it. If you can, see family from other households outdoors only.”
Meanwhile, Scotland’s interim chief medical officer Dr Gregor Smith confirmed that 18 cases of the new variant of the virus had been found in Scotland so far.
Dr Smith said this figure was likely to be an underestimate and the cases were mainly in the Central Belt.
He said: “The current figure for Scotland is we have 18 cases that meet this case definition – that's an additional one from the number we reported over the weekend.
“All of those are associated with the Central Belt.
“I and others would feel that this is quite an underestimate of the likely cases that there are in Scotland.”
From Boxing Day, all of mainland Scotland will be placed into tier four, meaning all non-essential shops will close, along with hospitality and gyms.
Schools will not return until at least 18 January, with pupils expected to commence home learning from 11 January.