Politics

Sturgeon rules out Christmas Day lockdown but door open for restrictions after Boxing Day

NICOLA Sturgeon has left the door open to potentially tighten Covid rules after Boxing Day as she confirmed that no extra limitations with be enforced on Scots for Christmas Day celebrations.

The First Minister will update MSPs on Tuesday after discussing with her Cabinet any further measures needed to curb the spread of the Omicron surge across Scotland.

On Monday, Scotland recorded its highest test positivity rate since January this year, with 6,734 new coronavirus cases counted in the last 24 hours – the highest daily figure since September.

National Clinical Director Jason Leitch has warned that the peak of the Omicron wave may not arrive in Scotland until late January or early February – adding that “difficult choices” may be needed over patient care as hospitals become “very, very busy”.

READ MORE: Covid Scotland: Omicron spreading as new virus infections reach three-month high

Ms Sturgeon has confirmed that people can plan Christmas Day celebrations based on the advice already issued. But she warned that “we are in a challenging situation”.

She said: “We’re seeing come to pass what we predicted – cases are rising, the proportion of all cases in Scotland that are now the Omicron variant has been rising as well.

“We’ve also seen people following the advice that we gave last Tuesday and I hope that will be beginning to have a bit of a suppressive affect ion infections.”

The First Minister insisted she is “not asking people to cancel or change their plans” for Christmas Day, but warned people will need to “go back to limiting your contact for a period as much as possible” after the festive weekend.

Ms Sturgeon said the aim was to “try to avoid a spike in infections as we come out that core Christmas Day and Boxing Day period” as Omicron cases continue to soar.

Speaking ahead of her announcement to Holyrood, she added: “Cabinet will look at the data and we will consider – we haven’t taken any decisions – whether there are any other steps we need to take, both to slow down the spread of infection and to take account of the fact that because of the rising number of infections we are seeing quite high staff absences across the economy and in public services.

READ MORE: Covid Scotland: Extra Treasury funds could pave way for tighter restrictions

“If we are deciding to do anything else – as I say I am not changing the advice for individuals around Christmas – I will set that out to Parliament.”

The First Minister will address MSPs amid a row with the UK Government over emergency funding for any further measures needed to help curb the rise in infections.

The Treasury claimed that it had “doubled” the amount of extra funding the Scottish Government will receive to help roll out any extra restrictions in the form of business support.

But SNP Finance Secretary Kate Forbes has warned that answers are still needed on how much extra cash she is being handed – labelling an extra £220 million announced by the Treasury as a “rough estimate” based on how much the UK Government thinks it will spend.

She added that “if they ultimately spend less, then we will need to repay the difference”.

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