Scotland has recorded the highest Covid case numbers yet “by some margin”, the First Minister said.
However, Nicola Sturgeon said there was “grounds for optimism” because the rise in infections in recent weeks had not translated into a corresponding rise in hospital admissions. She said there would be no immediate change to the restrictions in place or advice given to the public but said the immediate period ahead “would not be an easy one.”
A total of 15, 849 cases were reported yesterday, which represents 28.9% of all tests carried out.
She said the much higher test positive in recent days “may be partially explained” by peole being more selective about when to go for a test over the Christmas period.
However she added: “This is by some margin the highest overall daily case number reported inthe pandemic to date.”
A total of 679 people are in hospital in Covid, 80 more than yesterday while 36 people are in intensive care, one fewer than yesterday. A further three deaths have been reported.
“It clear that the wave of Omicron that has been predicted is now rapidly developing”, said the First Minister.
Omicron now account for 80% of all cases, and over the past week the number of reported cases of Covid has increased by 47%.
She said that transmission rates will not yet be “fully evident.”
“It is reasonable to assume therefore that we will continue to see steep increases in cases in the days and possibly weeks ahead.”
However she said the current surge would be even higher “but for so many people following advice to cut down on social interactions in the run up to Christmas.”
She said: “Given the speed and extent of transmission, now it is vital that we continue to take sensible precautions.”
However, she said there are “grounds for optimism” as studies had shown the risk of hospitalisation from Omicron is potentially significantly lower that for other strains of the virus.
“It is encouraging that, at least until now, the rise in cases experienced over the past few weeks has not translated into a corresponding rise in hospital admissions or occupancy.
Responding to shortages of PCR appointments she said slots would be prioritised for certain groups including health and transport workers.
The Scottish Government introduced new measures on Boxing Day which included one-metre physical distancing at large events, with limits of 100 people standing indoors, 200 people sitting indoors and 500 people outdoors.
New rules on social gatherings then came in on Monday, with meetings limited to three households at indoor and outdoor venues like bars, restaurants, theatres, cinemas and gyms.
Table service was also made a requirement at places where alcohol is served and nightclubs have been ordered to close their doors again for at least three weeks.
Scotland’s new rules mean Hogmanay events will be cancelled, while the Scottish Premiership winter break has been brought forward to avoid staging football matches within the new limits on crowds.
Scotland’s Deputy First Minister has told new year revellers planning to travel to England amid more relaxed Covid restrictions that this would be the “wrong course of action”.
John Swinney said while there is nothing to stop party-goers from heading south of the border, where nightclubs are still open, for their Hogmanay celebrations, this would go against the “spirit” of the regulations put in place by the Scottish Government.
Mr Swinney said the current set of restrictions would be reviewed on January 11, but warned that “people can see with their own eyes the galloping pace at which Omicron is moving through Scotland”.
Nightclubs are also closed in Wales, and will be closed in Northern Ireland on New Year’s Eve.
Earlier this week, members of the public reported waiting up to four days for a PCR test result in Scotland, which should normally take 24 hours.
National clinical director of Scotland Professor Jason Leitch said after speaking to test and protect staff on Monday, the backlog was cleared and the wait for test results should have resumed to normal – between 24 and 36 hours.