First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has directly appealed to Scots to “please stay at home much more than you normally would” in the run-up to Christmas.
She told MSPs on Thursday she was “profoundly concerned” by the scale of the challenge posed by the Omicron variant of coronavirus sweeping the country.
Sturgeon was speaking after another 5951 coronavirus cases were reported on Wednesday, 45.4% of which were likely to be Omicron.
The variant is likely to be the dominant strain of coronavirus in Scotland from Friday.
“Please reduce your contact with households other than your own as much as you possibly can,” Sturgeon said in the Scottish Parliament. “For now, please stay at home much more than you normally would and as much as is feasible.
“Right now, the risk of getting Covid from interactions with others is high and it is rising, so ask yourself before doing anything you might have planned over the coming days ‘is it as safe as it needs to be and is it vital enough to you to justify that risk.
“I suspect what is most important to most of us over the next couple of weeks is having time with our families at Christmas – every interaction we have before then increases the risk of us getting Covid and so possibly losing that.
“More generally, I suspect what matters most to us – and I know this is strongly my view – is protecting children’s education. So by acting to reduce community transmission, we will also be helping keep schools open and open safely.”
Sturgeon has also written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson asking for more financial support to combat Omicron.
The First Minister said she was “acutely aware of and deeply concerned about the considerable impact” on businesses of her government’s advice for people to limit social interaction.
Last week, the First Minister asked workplaces to defer any planned festive gatherings due to concerns over a rising number of Omicron cases.
It led to a surge of last-minute cancellations across the hospitality sector, with calls for financial compensation to be offered to those impacted.
Sturgeon said businesses need the “scale of financial support” that was available earlier in the pandemic.
But she added: “However, there are simply no mechanisms available to the devolved administrations to trigger the scale of finance needed to support such schemes.
“We need the UK Government to act urgently and in the same way some other countries are already doing.”
She said the issue needs the “urgent engagement of the Prime Minister and the Chancellor”.
“We must not sleepwalk into an emergency that for both health and business will be much greater as a result of inaction than it will be if we act firmly and strongly now,” she said.
“I have therefore written to the Prime Minister this morning appealing to him to put the necessary support schemes in place. Such is the urgency I’ve asked to speak to him directly later today.”