The Scottish Government has announced additional steps to slow spread of the dominant Omicron variant of COVID-19.

Due to the urgent threat posed by Omicron’s much higher transmissibility than other variants of coronavirus (COVID-19), additional targeted measures to minimise contacts will come into force for at least three weeks to allow immunity from the accelerated booster vaccine programme to take effect.

All measures will be reviewed after three weeks on Tuesday 11 January at which point protection from booster vaccinations up to 31 December - when the Scottish Government is aiming for 80% of over 18s to have received their booster - will be maximised.

From 05:00 on 27 December, to minimise the risk of widespread transmission, there will be a requirement for one metre physical distancing between adults in all indoor hospitality and leisure settings, including:

  • pubs, bars, restaurants, cafes and other settings where food and drink is served for consumption on-site
  • leisure settings including gyms, theatres, cinemas, bingo and snooker halls and bowling alleys
  • museums, galleries and other visitor attractions

Table service will be required in settings where alcohol is served for consumption on the premises.

Physical distancing will not be required in places of worship or on public transport, however existing mitigations for these settings will continue to apply.

In addition, from 05:00 on 26 December, to help ease pressure on emergency services and reduce the risks of transmission in large crowds, attendance at large events will be limited – to 100 people for indoor standing events, to 200 people for indoor seated events, and to 500 people for all outdoor events seated or standing. Organisers of large professional sporting fixtures will have discretion over whether to admit spectators up to these limits. 

Guidance will be updated to advise against indoor activities where physical distancing cannot be maintained, including non-professional adult contact sports, from 26 December.

A package totalling £375 million, including £175 million of additional funding from the Treasury, will be made available to support sectors affected by the latest protective measures to combat Omicron. An update will be provided on the breakdown and allocation of funding as soon as possible.

Ministers will consider how COVID certification could be expanded to cover a wider range of indoor settings to support them remaining open once the booster programme is complete. 

Council Leader Norman Hampshire said:

“The national measures announced today underline the seriousness of the current situation. There are significant concerns regarding COVID-19 case levels including the transmissible nature of the Omicron strain.

“While this will be disappointing news especially at this time of year, it’s vital that everyone continues to play their part in suppressing the virus. We would strongly encourage people to follow national advice, including limiting the number of contacts you have, avoiding crowds, washing hands and wearing face coverings where required.

“It’s also very important that, to protect yourself and others, people get the vaccine or the vaccine booster. Look out for more information about this on the NHS Lothian website and social media channels.

“Even if you feel well, take regular lateral flow tests – especially before mixing with others. And if you do have symptoms, self isolate and book a PCR test.”

Published: Tuesday, 21st December 2021