Sticking with coronavirus rules and helping keep people safe is the “best gift” Scots can give this Christmas, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
The First Minister said that while Covid-19 restrictions would be relaxed temporarily for a few days over the festive period, people should “think carefully” before deciding on whether to reunite with relatives and other loved ones.
She made the plea after the UK Government and the three devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland agreed a joint approach that will allow a slight easing of restrictions between December 23 and 27.
Up to three households will be allowed to meet either in a house, outside, or in a place of worship in a “Christmas bubble”.
Sturgeon confirmed this is the only time restrictions can be relaxed, meaning people will not be able to enjoy similar gatherings for Hogmanay.
The plan was agreed following a Cobra meeting chaired by Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove, who said the deal would “offer hope for families and friends who have made many sacrifices over this difficult year”.
Sturgeon said people would be allowed to “meet with friends and family in a cautious and limited way”.
She stressed that “any relaxation of the restrictions does carry an additional risk – a risk to your friends and to your families”.
Sturgeon said: “This year, the best gift you could give is sticking with the rules and protecting your loved ones.”
Speaking about the temporary relaxation of restrictions, the First Minister said: “We will allow ‘bubbles’ of three households to meet from December 23 to 27 in a home, an outdoor place or a place of worship.
“You don’t have to stay together for all five days – in fact you might only meet for one or two days – but importantly, once you’ve formed a bubble, you shouldn’t meet with others outside of that bubble.”
Travel restrictions will also be eased for the period, so people can “cross between protection levels” to join their bubble.
With these plans in place for Christmas, she insisted no relaxation of the restrictions would be brought in for Hogmanay.
“Those are the only rules that will change,” Sturgeon said.
“Sadly, there cannot be any further relaxation of measures for Hogmanay. It is only possible to do this once – and even then, it has risks.
“Before you reach out to friends and family, think carefully about whether you need to form a bubble.
“Just because you can mix with others indoors over this time, that doesn’t mean you have to.
“If you choose to stick with the rules as they are, then you will be continuing the hard work to beat this virus and prevent its spread to the elderly and the vulnerable.
“We have all sacrificed so much since the early days of 2020 in order to keep our friends and families safe.
“So much so, that to throw away the progress we have made on keeping Covid-19 from our doors – just when a way out of this crisis appears to be in sight – would be irresponsible and potentially bring with it tragic consequences.”