‘Surge of last-minute cancellations’ after FM’s Christmas party warning

Nicola Sturgeon asked workplaces to defer any planned festive gatherings due to the spread of the new variant.

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Scotland’s hospitality industry is already reporting a surge of last-minute cancellations after the First Minister urged the public to axe their Christmas parties this year.

During a Covid briefing on Friday afternoon, Nicola Sturgeon asked workplaces to defer any planned festive gatherings as she warned of the risk posed by the new Omicron variant.

She said: “I know this has a big impact on businesses, which is why we are considering and pressing the UK Government on financial support.”

Public Health Scotland also released advice on Thursday evening urging businesses to avoid throwing parties.

Reacting to the plea, Dr Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce said: “The First Minister’s announcement, advising against work Christmas parties, will have a major impact on Scotland’s events and hospitality sectors as these businesses are already reporting a surge of last-minute cancellations.

“Financial compensation to mitigate the fallout from this intervention must be made available immediately to businesses.

“We cannot see a repeat of March 2020 where the hospitality sector was essentially closed down without any financial support being put in place until weeks after the lockdown decision. That cannot be allowed to happen again.

“Scotland’s vaccine rollout is leading the UK and we urge everyone that can to get the vaccine and boosters when eligible.

“Businesses will continue to do everything at our disposal to prevent the spread of the virus and keep our customers, clients and employees safe.”

On Friday the First Minister said additional Covid protective measures “cannot be ruled out”, as she outlined the importance of taking early action.

She said: “The public health advice, which I’ve no alternative but to agree with given the evidence of risk that I know about and have now shared with you, is that we should all think a bit more carefully about unnecessary contact, especially in crowded places just now and that it would be sensible to defer work Christmas parties.

“Now, I know this has a big impact on businesses, which is why we are considering and pressing the UK Government on financial support.

“But once again, we face a situation that frankly has no easy options. We know that any additional protective measures will cause social and economic harms, especially after almost two years of this pandemic.

“But we also know from past experience that early action is often needed when dealing with this virus.

“In fact, acting early is often the best way of acting proportionately. So we can’t rule out further measures, and I’m afraid we can’t avoid the advice that I have shared with you today.

“I’ll continue to do all I can to be up front and open with you in the days ahead, and I continue to be so grateful for the responsibility the vast majority of people across the population are showing.”