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There were growing reports of confusion over Covid-19 guidance yesterday (Friday December 17) after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said people should "think very carefully" about every interaction with other people due to the "not insignificant" risk of catching Covid-19 in its new Omicron variant.

In contrast, Scottish Government policy on individuals living in supported housing was reissued stating they should continue to be supported to meet with their friends and family within their home.

Meanwhile with talk of a “tsunami” of cases sweeping the country, workers in the retail sector openly wondered why they again were left exposed to the supposed new risks, while office workers who rarely meet the wider public were staying home again. And why could 10,000s of people meet at football games but only handfuls in a pub?

This guidance on individuals living in supported housing follows the First Minister’s Parliamentary COVID-19 statement earlier this week relating to measures to stem the flow of transmission of the Omicron variant.

Specific guidance states that “providers of Supported Housing” should continue to support indoor visits for their tenants. It is also recommended that there should be no more than two households meeting with a tenant in supported housing at one time."  The general public can meet three households at a time. 

It specifically states: “There is no requirement to cancel any plans already made for tenants’ main festive celebration – whether that takes place on Christmas Day, Christmas Eve, Boxing Day or another day over the festive period.

“There are no limits to the number of households gathering for that main celebration.”

However, to make the festive celebrations as safe as possible:

  • LFD tests should be taken before meeting
  • Groups should be kept as small as possible
  • A safe distance should be kept from those not in your household, especially indoors
  • No one with symptoms or in self-isolation should attend
  • Good hand hygiene should be practiced
  • Rooms should be kept well ventilated

The guidance also states: “There should be no restrictions on frequency of visiting, unless tenants are self- isolating or there is an outbreak, in which case guidance from test and protect will be followed.”

More generally, new restrictions aimed at limiting the spread of the variant are now in force. Shops and hospitality outlets have to introduce measures to reduce crowding and queueing, erect screens and barriers and enforce the wearing of face masks.

Nicola Sturgeon said: "Cases have already increased by more than 40% in the past week, and we should expect to see that continue and indeed accelerate in the period ahead.

"The tsunami I warned about a week ago is now starting to hit us." 

She stressed that the country now had much more effective protection against the virus than it did a year ago, with booster doses of the vaccine appearing to be very effective in reducing the risk of serious illness from Omicron. 

But Ms Sturgeon said the recent increase in cases was expected to "continue and accelerate", adding: "As of now the scale and the immediacy of the challenge it presents is of profound concern."

The First Minister earlier announced the breakdown of a lifeline £100 million financial package to support businesses experiencing cancellations due to the rapid spread of the new Omicron variant.

The £100 million support package is broken down into:

  • £66 million for eligible hospitality businesses
  • £20 million for the culture sector
  • £8 million for food and drink supply chain businesses including wholesalers
  • £3 million for the wedding sector
  • £3 million for the worst affected businesses in the tourism sector, including international inbound tour operators

Final details of the funding available and how to apply is being determined in discussion with business organisations and will be published next week. Eligible hospitality businesses will be contacted directly by their local authorities and will not need to apply for support.

Food and Drink wholesalers can apply for funding through a rerun of the Scottish Wholesale Food and Drink Resilience Fund in January 2022.

Guidance has also been published to enable businesses to take reasonable measures to limit the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.