People should not be meeting at Christmas “just to have a party”, Scotland’s national clinical director has said.
Jason Leitch stressed that Christmas bubbles should be used to “help with social isolation and caring” but not “just for Christmas, just for a party, just so they can see people who they’ve missed”.
“I will not be seeing my 80-year-old parents on Christmas Day for the first time in my whole life,” he said.
“But I want to have another 15 Christmases with them, that’s why. So it’s important people make that choice for themselves.”
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, he said “Scotland’s numbers are lower” but preventative action against the new strain of coronavirus was still necessary.
Severe lockdown restrictions have been announced north of the border for December and January.
Indoor mixing will only be allowed on Christmas Day and most of Scotland will be put into the highest level of lockdown from Boxing Day.
A “strict travel ban” has been maintained between Scotland and the rest of the UK over the festive period – including Christmas Day.
The latest figures published on Sunday show Scotland recorded three deaths from coronavirus and 934 positive tests in the past 24 hours, although the Scottish Government cautioned that technical issues over the weekend may have disrupted the statistics.
The daily test positivity rate has risen to 5.1% from 4% the previous day.
Leitch said he is “pretty confident” the Covid-19 vaccine will work on the new variant of the virus.
The vaccine and treatments will work against the strain, he said, but the rate at which it transmits is worrying.
He said: “We are pretty confident from first principles, looking at it down a microscope for lack of a better description, that the vaccine will work but we need to prove that.”
The new variant of the virus will have to be grown at the Porton Down laboratory in Wiltshire, he said, and then be attacked by antibodies to see if it can be killed.
He said virologists are pretty confident that what has been seen so far “doesn’t worry them”.
Leitch added that the R number, the reproduction rate, of the new strain is higher.
He said: “We don’t know this for sure but we think the R number for this version is 0.4 more than the R number for the other one if you just let it run wild.
“So imagine you have an R number right now of 0.9 – you think you are doing well, numbers are falling, everybody is transmitting to fewer than one other person, you are on the right path, then you get this dominant strain and your R number overnight goes to 1.3 and you get exponential growth and you are in big trouble.”