Fri 17 Dec 21
As Omicron continues to spread, the Scottish Government is setting out new guidance and measures to take effect from 00:01 on Friday to stem the flow of transmission, keep businesses and services open, and protect against pressure on health services.
Evidence shows that the new, highly transmissible Omicron strain of COVID-19 can infect those who have been vaccinated, or previously infected. Therefore it is considered necessary to reintroduce some protections to prevent hospital admissions.
The First Minister warned of the strain on the NHS due to increased cases alongside the impact on the economy of people isolating and off work. And while the vaccination programme was being sped up, more must be done in the meantime to slow the spread.
The First Minister said the government want to keep businesses open but to help achieve this, businesses are being asked to step up the protections in place in their premises.
Regulations will be amended to put a legal requirement on those running businesses or providing services to take measures which are reasonably practicable to minimise the risk of transmission.
For example, for hospitality, it will mean measures to avoid crowding at bars and between tables, and a reminder of the requirement to collect contact details of customers to help with contact tracing. And there will be increased guidance for mask wearing in outdoor crowded areas such as Christmas markets or festive celebrations.
Further guidance on additional measures has now been published. Take a look at the guidance for the tourism and hospitality sector, including procedures for staff and customer safety and an operations checklist.
The update to tourism and hospitality guidance should be read in conjunction with the safer workplaces guidance, which contains the key elements of mandatory and advisory protection measures, alongside advice and resources on risk management.
The central message for those operating in the tourism and hospitality sector is to ensure that you review your risk assessment in line with the updated guidance on taking reasonable measures to reduce risk. This should be done as a priority.
The First Minister confirmed the Scottish Government has identified around £100 million within its own resources to help businesses, mainly those in hospitality, the food supply and culture sector who were most affected.
The Finance Secretary will be engaging with affected sectors immediately to consult on and confirm the details of support and money will be available as soon as possible.
Businesses which received support through the Strategic Framework Business Fund will be contacted directly.
The First Minister acknowledges that the hospitality and culture sectors are being severely impacted by her advice to stay at home and limit contacts.
Of the £100 million support for business, £66 million of this will go to hospitality, £8 million will go to the food and drink supply chain, £3 million will go to weddings, £20 million will go to the culture sector and £3 million to the worst affected tourism businesses.
People are being urged to reduce contact in the run up to and aftermath of Christmas. Household mixing will not be banned in law as it was last year, but people are asked to cut down the number of people outside their household they interact with.
If people are mixing with other households, people have been asked to limit the number of households represented to a maximum of three.
The First Minister encouraged people to keep celebrations as small as family circumstance would allow, with everyone present vaccinated with a recent negative test.
For Christmas (Christmas Day / Christmas Eve / Boxing Day - whenever you have your main family celebration), the First Minister said she was not asking people to cancel or change their plans, and the government is not proposing limits on the size of household gatherings.
Places of worship will also remain open, with appropriate mitigations.
The First Minister reiterated the changes made to self-isolation rules, with those who had come in contact with someone with COVID being advised to self-isolate for ten days along with their entire household. Businesses or organisations can apply for an exemption to allow essential workers to return to work subject to them being symptom free and taking daily lateral flow tests. Learn more about how to apply.
The strong recommendation continues to be that everyone should take a lateral flow test beforehand, on any occasion that they will be meeting another household, as an important way to reduce the risk of unknowingly spreading the virus to other people.
It remains vitally important to strictly adhere to all public health advice, being stringent around use of face coverings in all required settings, isolating for the full period when advised to, and ensuring good ventilation in spaces where households will mix.