Nicola Sturgeon has outlined the need to try and protect people’s ability to spend Christmas with their families, as she said the Scottish Government is considering how it can stem transmission of the Omicron variant.
The First Minister indicated that Cabinet will look at options on Tuesday as she warned that the virus has “learned to run a lot faster”.
Speaking to STV News, Sturgeon also refused to be drawn on suggestions that Scotland could follow the Republic of Ireland in introducing measures to limit festive gatherings to four households.
“Cabinet will look at options tomorrow. I’d encourage people again to think of this as a race between vaccines and the virus,” she said.
“The virus has just learned to run a lot faster, speeding up vaccinations, but we will also have to think about are there steps we need to take to slow down the spread of Omicron.
“Now, we’re going to be very careful about that, people have lived with this for two years.
“We’ve tried to minimise the additional impact on people’s lives and be very proportionate.
“But, Cabinet will consider some of these options tomorrow and I will set it out in an orderly way to Parliament in the afternoon.”
Sturgeon acknowledged that reducing contact is a basic step to stem transmission of viruses, but also that it has an impact on people’s lives.
She said: “To limit the spread of a virus, yes, reducing contact, making sure that contacts that are happening between people are happening more safely, which is why we are encouraging people to test when they’re going to meet with people in other households.
“So, these are the basic things we know we need to do to stem transmission of a virus, but how we do that and how we ask people to do that matters because it has an impact on all of our lives.
“So, we are thinking very carefully about how to do that in a way that is proportionate, that minimises further disruption to people’s lives, but can help us slow down transmission as we speed up the booster vaccines.”
Asked whether the surging Omicron cases could have the same impact on this Christmas, as rising Covid cases did last year, Sturgeon said the country is in a “very different situation” than in 2020.
She said: “I hope not. I think we need to try to protect people’s ability to spend Christmas with their families, but we do need to think about the advice we’re giving people to keep as safe as possible in the run-up to Christmas, to keep as safe as possible as we go through Christmas.
“We’re in a very different situation from last Christmas. On the upside, because we’ve got vaccines. We had only barely started the vaccination programme last Christmas.
“But we’re also in a different situation because frankly people’s mental health, their wellbeing, their ability to cope with this, is reduced because of the longevity of the crisis we’ve been dealing with.
“As First Minister, as the Government, we’ve got to take all of that into account.
“We can’t magic away this virus unfortunately, but in how we deal with it, we’ve got to understand the realities of people’s lives and try to strike the right balance and that’s what we’re working really hard to do.”
Asked about whether Scotland could introduce similar restrictions as Republic of Ireland, she said: “Reducing people’s contacts, of course, that is the basic way you stop a virus.
“I’m not going to start speculating on what that might mean because Cabinet hasn’t decided.”
The First Minister added: “People are really anxious right now about the things that might be coming down the track.
“I can’t take that anxiety away unfortunately, but I can try to make sure that the Government takes its decisions in an orderly manner and then we set them out in an orderly manner.
“It doesn’t help anybody’s mental health for me to start to speculate about things.
“Cabinet will look at the situation tomorrow, will take whatever decisions they arrive at and then I will set these out to Parliament, and I think that is the fair way of doing it.”