At-a-glance: What are the Covid rules in Scotland from Boxing Day?

New measures announced over Christmas period to limit spread of the Omicron variant.

At-a-glance: What are the Covid rules in Scotland from Boxing Day? iStock
Covid restrictions have been tightened in Scotland over the festive period.

Scots are being urged to stay at home “as much as possible” over the festive period, with tighter coronavirus restrictions set to come into force after Christmas Day.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said new measures were necessary in a bid to limit the spread of infections.

It comes amid increasing concern over the threat posed by the Omicron variant – now the dominant strain of the virus across the country.

More curbs on hospitality have been announced and large-scale events cancelled, in addition to new guidance and restrictions already implemented.

All the latest rules are available to view on the Scottish Government website here and at-a-glance below.

What is changing from Boxing Day?

Crowds at outdoor public events will be capped at 500 from Boxing Day for at least three weeks. The First Minister conceded the move will “make sports matches, including football, effectively spectator-free over this three-week period”.

It also means that large-scale traditional Scottish Hogmanay celebrations on December 31 – including Edinburgh’s Party at the Bells on Princes Street – have been called off.

Numbers at indoor public events are to be limited to 100 standing or 200 seated. But the restrictions do not apply to private events such as weddings.

For three weeks from December 27, pubs and other venues selling alcohol will be required to offer table service only.

Indoor hospitality and leisure venues need to ensure one-metre social distancing between groups of people who are attending together.

Nightclubs must close for three weeks from 5am on December 27 unless they can operate “within regulation.”

People aged over 18 may also be asked to show proof of vaccination or a negative lateral test in order to enter certain entertainment venues.

By law in Scotland, everyone over the age of 12 must wear face coverings indoors, unless exempt, and the new guidance stresses that masks should be worn inside all businesses.

It was also announced that allowing staff to work from home where possible will again become a legal duty on employers.

What about Christmas Day itself?

Before and immediately after Christmas, people should minimise social mixing with other households as much as possible.

Those who do intend to socialise with others at home or inside a public place should limit the gathering to three households and take a test before they go.

The Scottish Government is not asking people to change their plans for Christmas Day, as well as not proposing limits on the size of household gatherings.

Restrictions on household numbers, therefore, do not apply on the day people enjoy their main celebration, including on Christmas Day, Christmas Eve or Boxing Day.

Places of worship will also remain open.

Mitigations have been issued, however, to ensure people can have a safe Christmas – including by reducing contacts in advance of December 25 and in the days afterward, keeping celebrations as small as family circumstances allow, and ensuring everyone who is gathering is vaccinated and has done a test in advance.

People should also keep their houses ventilated and follow strict hygiene rules.

In what way is the sporting schedule affected?

The new restrictions will affect fixtures across the festive programme including top-flight derbies in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee in the first few days of 2022.

They will also affect the double-header between Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh in the United Rugby Championship.

The Premiership is due to shut down for three weeks from January 3 with top-flight teams returning to action in the Scottish Cup in the fourth weekend of the year.

To speed up the break, clubs and the Scottish Professional Football League would also need to reach agreement with Sky Sports, which is due to screen four matches before the break, including Rangers’ trip to Celtic Park on January 2.

Celtic and Rangers are already facing fixture disruption in the coming week after Covid-hit St Mirren requested postponements of games against both Glasgow sides.

How are businesses being supported?

Business will remain open but have been urged to ramp up the protections already in place. Regulations have been amended to put a legal requirement on those running businesses providing services to take measures that are “reasonably practicable to minimise the risk of transmission”.

In retail, that will include physical distancing requirements, measures to control the flow of customers – such as one-way systems – and protective screens.

For hospitality, it means measures to avoid crowding at bars and between tables and a reminder to collect customers’ details as part of contact tracing requirements.

Guidance to enable staff who were working from home at the start of the pandemic to do so again has been made into law.

People who can’t do their jobs at home are being urged to test regularly before going to work.

Is extra financial support being made available?

Recent funding from the UK Treasury will give Scotland an extra £175m to spend now, Sturgeon said on Tuesday.

The First Minister told MSPs the entirety of this sum would go towards supporting businesses, bringing the total package for business support over the next three weeks to £375m.

The amount of UK Government funding Scotland will receive to tackle Covid has been doubled from £220m to £440m – a sum being provided to the Scottish Government on top of their autumn Budget 2021.

But Sturgeon said that she was checking whether the funding was indeed additional.

Meanwhile, UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak on Tuesday announced a £1bn support package to businesses hit by Covid restrictions.

That total includes £80m for the Scottish Government from the £220m advance earlier announced by the Treasury.

How is the booster vaccination programme going?

It is the Scottish Government’s intention that everyone over 18 will have been able to book a booster appointment by Hogmanay.

“It is not possible to guarantee everyone over 18 will have been vaccinated by December 31,” she said. “For a variety of reasons, some appointments will run into the new year.

Sturgeon also said some capacity challenges are “inevitable” such as vaccinator staff absences due to Covid. Regardless, the Scottish Government is aiming to reach as close as possible to 80% uptake by the end of December, with the balance of appointments taking place in January.

So far, 4,373,917 people have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccination, 3,997,192 have received their second dose, and 2,630,615 have received a third dose or booster.

Will schools go back on time after the holidays?

Reopening schools as normal after the holidays remains “a priority” for the Scottish Government, the First Minister has said.

Nicola Sturgeon said that children and young people have suffered “disproportionately” over the last two years and that it is important they are able to continue their education as normal in the new year.

She said that adults may have to make sacrifices to achieve this, but that people should be prepared to accept that if it helps ensure normality in schools.

Teaching union Scottish Secondary Teachers Association (SSTA) had called for the reopening of Scottish schools after the Christmas holidays to be delayed because of the Omicron variant, while the head of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) union said the Scottish Government should be prepared to return schools to remote learning if necessary.

However giving an update on the Covid situation to MSPs on Tuesday, Sturgeon said: “It remains our priority to reopen schools as normal after the holidays.”

She added: “I want schools to reopen on schedule and I want children to be back in school as normal.

“I think everybody has suffered through these last two years and children and young people have suffered disproportionately particularly given the very important stage of their of their lives and their education so my views on that are very clear.

Can people visit care homes?

The Scottish Government is now recommending that individual visits in care homes should not involve any more than two households visiting any patient at a time and people should test before every visit.

For hospitals, the recommendation is no more than two people visit a patient at any one time and a lateral flow test is advised before each visit.

What happens if I test positive for Covid-19?

People who develop symptoms (however mild) should stay at home for ten days from when symptoms begin and book a test. They should not visit a GP, pharmacy or hospital. 

Stay at home until getting a test result and then follow the advice given at that point.

Household contacts of a positive test must self-isolate for 10 days regardless of their vaccination status or a negative PCR test.

International travellers arriving in Scotland have to provide provide proof of a negative PCR or lateral flow test taken two days before travelling, in addition to a negative PCR test on or before day two after arrival.