Additional measures to manage the increased risks of transmission associated with Omicron.
As Omicron continues to spread, the Scottish Government is setting out new guidance and measures to take effect from midnight on Friday to stem the flow of transmission, keep businesses and services open, and protect against pressure on health services.
Evidence shows that the new, highly transmissible Omicron strain of COVID-19 can infect those who have been vaccinated, or previously infected.
Therefore, it is considered necessary to reintroduce some protections to prevent hospital admissions.
Guidance has been updated on reducing social interaction at home or in indoor public places to a maximum of three households at any time, with everyone encouraged to take a lateral flow test before meeting.
This will also be reflected in updated guidance for visiting care homes – with no more than two households to visit a resident at a time – and in hospitals, with no more than two visitors at any time.
In all settings, people should take a lateral flow test before meeting, to support people to continue to connect with their loved ones.
Additional funding of £100 million to ensure the Self-Isolation Support Grant is available to those who need it, and a £100 million financial package for eligible businesses is to be made available.
Business support funding has been allocated to enhance adherence to the necessary public health measures and support businesses in hospitality, and food supply and in the culture sector that have lost crucial bookings during this key trading period.
The Finance Secretary will be engaging with affected sectors immediately to consult on and confirm the details of support and money will be available as soon as possible.
The COVID-19 booster programme continues to accelerate, with the online portal for 18-29-year-olds opening on Wednesday 15 December and the waiting period following vaccination reduced from 15 minutes to five minutes.
COVID-19 booster jabs will be prioritised over the remainder of the flu vaccination programme to speed up vaccination times and enable more appointments.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:
“Getting fully vaccinated is the best thing any of us can do to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and the country.
“So please, book your booster jag as soon as possible. Speeding up vaccination is essential and I want to assure the nation that it is the government’s top priority.
“While we are speeding up vaccination, we must also try to slow down Omicron.
“That is why we are also proposing today, albeit reluctantly, some further protective measures.
“I am appealing to everyone to follow today’s advice, to help slow Omicron down while more of us get our boosters.
“I am not asking anyone to ‘cancel’ Christmas – but in the run up to and in the immediate aftermath of Christmas, I am asking everyone to reduce as far as possible, and to a minimum, the contacts we have with people in other households.
“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.
“Turning to Christmas Day specifically – or Christmas Eve or Boxing Day or whenever you have your main family celebration – we are not asking you to cancel or change your plans, and we are not proposing limits on the size of household gatherings.
“Places of worship will also remain open, with appropriate mitigations. But we will issue guidance to help you make Christmas safer.
“Omicron will be especially concerning to people on the Highest Risk List – the Chief Medical Officer will be writing to all of you shortly with further advice and assurance.”
Further guidance on additional measures announced by the First Minister will be published by the end of the week.
Businesses, service providers and places of worship asked to take all reasonable measures to avoid crowding, encourage wearing of masks and support distancing in their premises
This will include guidance to ensure that people who can work from home, do so – for those in sectors where working from home is not possible, regular testing with lateral flow tests should be undertaken
Reinforcement of protective measures in retail and other settings including distancing, managing customer flows, and protective screens
Reinforcement of protective measures in hospitality settings including collection of contact tracing information and measures to reduce crowding
Guidance to increase mask wearing in outdoor crowded areas such as Christmas markets or festive celebrations
The Scottish Government’s strong recommendation continues to be that everyone should take a lateral flow test beforehand, on any occasion that you will be meeting another household, as an important way we can all reduce the risk of unknowingly spreading the virus to other people.
It remains vitally important to strictly adhere to all public health advice, being stringent around use of face coverings in all required settings, isolating for the full period when advised to, and ensuring good ventilation in spaces where households will mix.