New coronavirus restrictions could be introduced in Scotland next week, the deputy first minister has warned.
It follows updated Covid isolation rules coming into force in the face of rising cases of the highly infectious Omicron variant.
The household contacts of any person who tests positive for Covid should now isolate for ten days regardless of their vaccination status and even if they initially get a negative PCR test.
John Swinney told STV News that “difficult decisions” would have to be taken amid fears of a potential “tsunami” of infections.
He said evidence and guidance was been reviewed over the weekend ahead of an announcement expected by the First Minister on Tuesday in Parliament.
“I’d want to reassure members of the public that the last thing I want to do is to have to go down the route of taking further difficult decisions to apply constraints on people’s lives because I know how much people want to get on with their lives, particularly when people were looking forward to a Christmas that might have felt a bit closer to what we’ve all experienced for most of our lives”, he said.
Swinney was speaking after concerns were raised that new isolation rules could see a serious impact of NHS staff absences.
Professor Michael Griffin OBE, president of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, said: “There is no doubt that the new isolation rules will make things much more difficult in terms of NHS staffing this winter, however these measures must be taken to keep as many people as possible safe.”
Around 40 A&E workers at Hairmyres Hospital in East Kilbride are self-isolating following an outbreak of the variant linked to their Christmas party.
A second ward has shut its doors at a hospital in the Highlands after an outbreak of coronavirus.
NHS Fife has issued a plea to people who attended a Take That Christmas party event at a St Andrews hotel after an outbreak of coronavirus cases.
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said hospitality businesses needed a clear signal about the government’s direction of travel so that they can plan ahead.
“Right now hospitality businesses are in the worst of all possible worlds,” he said.
“The phones won’t stop ringing as customers cancel but they can’t claim any financial support.
“We need to see an emergency Omicron plan this week, which will urgently ramp up the booster programme, give frontline NHS staff the additional resources they need, guarantee financial protections for small businesses, particularly in hospitality, and ensure that everyone who needs it can access mental health support during these difficult times.”