NEW advice has been issued to reduce the spread of Covid in the run-up to Christmas.
Taking effect from midnight tomorrow social interaction at home or in indoor public places is limited to a maximum of three households at any time, with everyone encouraged to take a lateral flow test before meeting, alongside all other public health measures – handwashing, face coverings, vaccinations.
In care homes no more than two households can visit a resident at a time and in hospitals no more than two visitors at any time.
In addition, beginning last Saturday, all household contacts of any confirmed coronavirus case must isolate for 10 days regardless of vaccination status – even if they initially get a negative PCR test.
People are also being urged to defer work Christmas parties to slow the spread of the virus.
The new measures have been introduced following a rapid rise in case numbers and on the back of a Scottish government evidence paper outlining the increased transmissibility of the Omicron variant.
The evidence paper estimates that Omicron cases will double every two to three days.
It highlights that a rapid rise in Omicron infections could put significant additional pressure on hospitals and other health and care services.
First minister Nicola Sturgeon said the evidence paper made clear that the country was facing a renewed and very severe challenge in the shape of the Omicron variant.
“The much greater and faster transmissibility of this new variant means we may be facing a potential tsunami of infections,” she said.
“We must do all we can to break transmission chains, which is why we are acting now by changing isolation requirements and giving advice on work Christmas parties.
“I know that more restrictions could cause significant health, social and economic harms, especially after almost two years of this pandemic, but abiding by the new measures gives us the best chance of minimising further restrictions.”
She added she was not asking people to ‘cancel’ Christmas but to reduce as far as possible, and to a minimum, the contact with other people in other households.
Updates on vaccinations mean that young people aged 16 to 17 will not receive their second Covid-19 vaccination in school, and instead need to book themselves in using the new national portal.
It is part of national moves to a self-appointing system which is also asking people aged 40 and above, unpaid carers and household contacts of the immune-suppressed to book in for their booster jag 12 weeks from their second dose.
Calls are to act now to book amid heightened concerns over the transmissibility of the new Omicron variant, with the first cases of the variant identified in Dumfries & Galloway last Friday.
The region’s immunisation co-ordinator, Dr Nigel Calvert said: “It really is a race to try and ensure everyone eligible is as fully vaccinated as possible against the Omicron variant, as this really does offer the highest possible degree of defence.
“I can’t emphasise enough how important it is that people act now, with spaces available at locations across the region until the end of December.
“We’re still learning about the new Omicron variant, and more will be known over coming days, however, we do know that it is highly transmissible, and it has the potential to spread our region in the same way the Alpha variant did beginning at Christmas last year.”
Further guidance on additional measures announced by the first minister will come by the end of the week.
- To book a booster and/or flu vaccination visit https://vacs.nhs.scot/csp or calling 0800 030 8013.