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Covid Scotland: Swinney warns of more restrictions before Christmas

The Deputy First Minister has warned that Scots could face even more coronavirus measures ahead of Christmas if the Omicron situation worsens.

On Tuesday, the First Minister made a plea for people to reduce their social contact in the lead up and after Christmas to curb the spread of the latest variant. 

No extension to the vaccine passport scheme to hospitality and events was announced, but hospitality businesses will be expected to reinstate measures “to avoid crowding at bars and between tables” and retailers to bring back “physical distancing, measures to control the flow of customers and protective screens” at cash desks.

In her announcement yesterday, Nicola Sturgeon stated that while the Scottish Government had wished to impose harsher restrictions, they had been unable to due to a lack of UK Government funding. 

She said: “Our public health response is curtailed by lack of finance.”

Speaking on BBC’s Good Morning Scotland, Covid Recovery Minister John Swinney was asked which further restrictions had been discussed. 

Mr Swinney mentioned further application of social distancing measures, limitations on capacity in venues, shops, and in hospitality, but added that the Scottish Government recognised that imposing further restrictions would jeopardise the livelihoods of individuals and businesses.

Asked if further restrictions would be imposed if the Omicron variant worsened Mr Swinney said: “Potentially, but we hopefully want to avoid that. 

“We hope that we’ve done enough with the announcements made yesterday and we hope that members of the public and businesses will work with us in a co-operative spirit to make sure that we can take these provisions forward.” 

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon warns of 15,000 Omicron cases a day

He added: “I’m optimistic that is the case but obviously for a virus which represented 2% of our cases about ten days ago but now represents over 27% of our cases, we have a variant that is very powerful that is growing at an alarming rate and we face a very severe situation.

“What we’re trying to do is to protect the period that people are looking forward to, to have a normal a Christmas as we possibly can do but we need people to work with us in a spirit of caution to make sure we get through this and get through it safely.”

He urged Scots to err on the side of caution when making decisions to meet with others and to attend events over the festive period.

Yesterday, Scotland recorded 110 new cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant, taking the overall number to 296.

The variant now accounts for more than a quarter of all Covid cases found in the country and Ms Sturgeon said yesterday that the R number for Omicron appears to be ‘well over 2 and possibly above 4’.

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