Scotland ‘strongly’ urges people to defer Christmas parties over Omicron fears

Scottish parties banned

Public Health Scotland is “strongly” urging businesses to defer Christmas parties in response to the Omicron variant.

Dr Nick Phin said: “I appreciate that everyone is keen to celebrate this festive season, particularly after the pressures of the last 20 months, but by postponing some plans we can all do our bit to protect ourselves and our loved ones.”

The director of public health science and medical director at Public Health Scotland pointed to early evidence that suggests Omicron is “much more transmissible” than previous variants – and said a number of outbreaks have been linked to parties.

“We still need to learn more about the severity of disease caused by Omicron and the effectiveness of vaccines, but there are important things that we can do to help protect ourselves and our families now,” he said.

“To help minimise the further spread of COVID-19, and Omicron, in particular, I would strongly urge people to defer their Christmas parties to another time.”

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He went on to advise people to follow other measures to help slow the spread, including getting a booster jab, taking a COVID test before socialising with other households, and meeting outside.

How many Omicron cases have been reported?

The latest data from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) showed a total of 109 Omicron cases have been recorded in Scotland – after just one infection was reported in the last 24 hours.

Across the UK, the total number of confirmed Omicron cases is sitting at 817.

Boris Johnson said parties and nativities could go ahead

At a Downing Street news conference on Wednesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson had said Christmas parties and school nativities should still go ahead.

“They should follow the guidance, of course, but we are not saying we want kids to be taken out of school before the end of term – not that there is very long to go now – and we don’t want nativity plays to be cancelled,” Mr Johnson said.

“We think that it is OK currently, on what we can see, to keep going with Christmas parties, but obviously everybody should exercise due caution.”

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Some restrictions are already in place in Scotland

Scotland’s move comes after Mr Johnson announced Plan B restrictions for England, which will see millions asked to work from home, an extension of mandatory face coverings, and COVID passes to get into some venues.

Some of those rules are already in place in Scotland, with vaccine passports in force since October.

People who are attending nightclubs, unseated indoor events with 500 or more people, unseated outdoor events with 4,000 or more people, and any event with 10,000 or more people, need to show they are double vaccinated before entering.

Since 6 December, a negative PCR test taken within 24 hours of entry to a venue or a negative lateral flow test have also been accepted as part of the passes.

People are also required to wear a face mask in most indoor settings, and are encouraged to work from home where possible.