Nicola Sturgeon held an emergency Covid briefing today at lunchtime as Omicron cases around the UK continue to spiral.
Joined by chief medical officer Dr Gregor Smith, the first minister provided an update on the current situation in Scotland, which she admitted yesterday made her “profoundly concerned”.
Today’s announcement marked her third Covid update of the week, having briefed Parliament on Tuesday and then in an unscheduled speech on Thursday.
Since Tuesday, ministers have been warning that further measures could be on the cards in order to prevent overwhelming the NHS, with 5,951 new cases recorded on Thursday.
However, new restrictions have not been announced today.
Here are the key points from Nicola Sturgeon’s Covid update today…
1. In run up to Christmas, “stay at home”
Nicola Sturgeon asked the public to stay at home as much as possible in the run up to Christmas.
This adds to her urge to limit socialising to a maximum of three households, advice issued earlier this week.
The first minister said: “My fundamental ask of everyone just now us this. In the run up to Christmas, stay at home much more than you normally would, and as much as you can.
“If what matters most to you is spending time with loved ones on Christmas Day, and I think that matters most to many of us, don’t risk that by going out before then and catching Covid.
“The reality is, if you are mixing with others just now, getting this virus is a real and increasing risk.”
2. Omicron is dominant Covid strain in Scotland
Omicron has now officially replaced Delta as the dominant strain in Scotland, the first minister confirmed today.
As of 5pm on Thursday, there were 696 confirmed cases of Omicron.
However, this very significantly under estimates the actual number of Omicron cases in Scotland.
Speaking on these figures, the first minister said: “As you’ve heard me say, cases have been doubling every 2 to 3 days.
“Last Friday, I reported that the S Gene indicator was telling us then that 15.5% of all cases were likely to be the Omicron variant.
“Today, it is 51.4% That does mean Omicron has now replaced Delta as the dominant Covid strain circulating in Scotland.”
3. Turn around of tests may be slightly slower due to high volumes
The number of Covid cases reported today may be slightly lower today due to delays with turning round the results.
Huge numbers of Covid tests are being carried out as the virus spreads through the population.
4. Hospital admissions rising
The hospital admissions are beginning to rise in Scotland.
In the week up to December 13, hospitalisations were up slightly in comparison to previous weeks.
The first minister said: “Total hospital admissions in Scotland in the week up to 13th December were slightly higher than in the week previous – so we are already starting to see an increase as a result of the relatively moderate rise in cases seen in previous weeks.”
5. Must slow spread of Covid to protect economy
The first minister said she understands that the measures they are asking people to abide by, such as limiting socialising, are hitting sectors such as hospitality very hard.
She confirmed today that £66 million of the £100 million previously announced by the Scottish government would go to the hospitality industry, while the remaining £34 million would be shared between the arts, cutlure and tourism sectors.
She added: “We are working with councils, enterprise agencies and others to ensure businesses get this money as soon as possible. Those who have previously received support will be contacted directly.”
6. Nicola Sturgeon speaking with Boris Johnson today
Nicola Sturgeon is speaking to Boris Johnson today regarding more money for the devolved governments.
The first minister said: “In my view, business now needs the type and scale of financial support that was available earlier in the pandemic.
“And the reality is that can only come from the UK Government – because it has borrowing powers that the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish governments simply do not have.
“I will press this point with the Prime Minister when I speak to him later today.”
7. Get vaccinated, test regularly, stay at home as much as possible
Get vaccinated, test regularly and stay at home as much as possible was the overarching message from the first minister’s update today.
She once again asked people to “pull together and support each other” as much as we can.