Shoppers have been urged to avoid the Boxing Day sales this year because of the “risk” of coronavirus spreading in crowded places.
A warning has been issued by the Scottish Government about the sales, which often see bargain hunters queuing outside shops from early in the morning.
They were described as “notoriously crowded places” by the health secretary, who said at the daily briefing nothing in the sales can be “worth that risk”.
Jeane Freeman said: “The simple thing I’d say is avoid crowded places. We keep saying that.
“The Boxing Day sales are notoriously crowded places. Please avoid crowded places.
“There can be nothing in those sales that is worth that risk, so please don’t take it.”
The Scottish Government has regularly advised people throughout the pandemic to avoid crowded places, as well as reminding them to keep a two-metre distance from others.
Freeman’s points at the briefing were echoed by national clinical director Jason Leitch, who said: “I completely agree.”
He added: “I had written down ‘online’ and underlined it three times.
“That may not be popular with retailers and I’m deeply sorry but it is risky to go to the crowds, so please try and avoid that.
“On Boxing Day, or tomorrow, avoid it at any time. Particularly when you know it’s going to be busy and if it’s busy, leave.”
David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said retailers had “taken every step” to make sure shopping is as safe as possible.
He cited the use of screens, enhanced cleaning, signage and floor marking in shops as evidence of this, adding: “Whilst we understand concerns around traditionally busier times in the shopping calendar, and indeed encourage visits to stores at quieter times, the reality is shopper footfall in Scotland is down by a third on normal years and there is little evidence shoppers have surged onto the high street since recent local lockdowns were lifted.
“The fact is that without customers many high street shops will wither away – risking jobs and businesses across the country.
“We continue to ask customers to play their part – follow the rules, be considerate, maintain physical distancing, wear face coverings, and help make shopping as safe as possible in these challenging circumstances.”