As Omicron continues to spread, the Scottish Government has set out new guidance and measures to take effect from midnight on Friday to stem the flow of transmission, keep businesses and services open, and protect against pressure on health services.
The Scottish Government said evidence shows that the new, highly transmissible Omicron strain of COVID-19 can infect those who have been vaccinated, or previously infected. Therefore it has considered it necessary to reintroduce some protections to prevent hospital admissions.
Guidance has been updated on reducing social interaction at home or in indoor public places to a maximum of three households at any time, with everyone encouraged to take a lateral flow test before meeting.
This will also be reflected in updated guidance for visiting care homes – with no more than two households to visit a resident at a time – and in hospitals, with no more than two visitors at any time.
In all settings, people should take a lateral flow test before meeting, to support people to continue to connect with their loved ones.
Additional funding of £100 million to ensure the Self-Isolation Support Grant is available to those who need it, and a £100 million financial package for eligible businesses is to be made available.
Business support funding has been allocated to enhance adherence to the necessary public health measures and support businesses in hospitality ,and food supply and in the culture sector that have lost crucial bookings during this key trading period. 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.
The COVID-19 booster programme continues to accelerate, with the online portal for 18-29 year-olds opening on Wednesday 15 December and the waiting period following vaccination reduced from 15 minutes to five minutes. COVID-19 booster jabs will be prioritised over the remainder of the flu vaccination programme to speed up vaccination times and enable more appointments.
Reacting to the First Minister’s COVID-19 briefing, Dr Liz Cameron, Chief Executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce said:
“There will be a level of disappointment amongst Scotland’s business community following the First Minister’s COVID-19 update.
“Scotland’s businesses will continue to do everything they can to keep their employees and customers safe. To help protect businesses and individuals over the winter, it’s more important than ever that we collectively work together to drive down transmission, take the vaccine or the vaccine booster when invited and if you don’t have symptoms take regular lateral flow tests – especially before mixing with other people.
“The £100million of targeted support being made available for the hospitality, wholesale and supply chain sectors which businesses called for, whilst welcome, will not go anywhere near far enough to cover the financial losses being incurred.
“What Scotland’s businesses need now is an extension of at least the 50% COVID-19 rates relief, beyond the three months set out in the Scottish budget and guaranteed for the next financial year, in full. With these additional restrictions now in place, extended rates relief will be critical to giving thousands of Scottish businesses a shot at survival.
“The UK Government must also step in quickly with further details of what funding provision will be made available for devolved administrations to support businesses, given the tough economic challenges.”