Nicola Sturgeon has urged Scots to stay out of each other’s houses now if they want to see friends and family a “a bit more normally” closer to Christmas.
The First Minister said if the country sticks to the current coronavirus restrictions then there are greater prospects of having a Christmas that “might not be 100% normal but closer to that than it would otherwise be”.
Speaking during the Scottish Government’s daily coronavirus briefing on Monday, chief medical officer Dr Gregor Smith also said the country will be “living with the virus for years to come” but that the approach for tackling the virus would “evolve”.
When asked if Scots should currently hold off on booking travel for the festive period, Ms Sturgeon said she would “err on the side of caution at the moment”.
She said: “This is not a normal year and in the context of a pandemic, Christmas is still some time away.
“It’s going to be important over the next few weeks to give people clear advice and clear steers and parameters in which we can all try to have the best Christmas possible.
“I want people to get to Christmas and for all of us, myself included, to be able to enjoy it as freely as possible.”
Ms Sturgeon said she did not want to speculate on how the festive holiday might be celebrated this year but said this would be “firmed up” over the next few weeks.
She said while it was “unlikely” to be the same as it is outside a pandemic, but would be as “close to that as possible”.
‘Stay out of each other’s houses right now’
The first minister added: “What that means for rule of six, rule of 12, people travelling, I can’t say that definitively right now and I don’t think it’s fair for me to fly kites about that.
“I advise people against overseas travel that’s not essential and I’m asking people to think carefully about travel that’s not needed.
“So if you are making decisions right now err on the side of caution at the moment.
“I would hope in the weeks to come to be much more free about the advice we’re giving people about the Christmas period.
“Stay out of each other’s houses right now, and it’s more likely we’ll be able to see friends and family a bit more normally a bit closer to Christmas.”
Latest coronavirus figures
The SNP leader used Monday’s briefing to update the public on the most recent coronavirus figures, which show there were 961 positive cases confirmed in the last 24 hours, at a positivity rate of 17.1%.
Of the new cases, 359 are in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 244 in Lanarkshire, 112 in Lothian and 88 in Ayrshire and Arran.
A total of 487 people were in hospital, an increase of 38 since Sunday, and 36 were in intensive care, up one.
No deaths of confirmed Covid-19 patients have been recorded in the past 24 hours but this was largely due to registration offices being closed on a Sunday, the first minister said.
Speaking during Monday’s daily briefing, Dr Gregor Smith said he believes the country will be “living with the virus for years to come”.
But he added he did not think the public would be “living as we are just now”, as the government would “evolve its approach” by making use of treatments and vaccines.
‘New tiered alert system’
Nicola Sturgeon said the new Covid-19 alert system for England announced by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons on Monday will “give an idea” of a similar scheme to be proposed in Scotland.
The new system will offer three different classifications for local areas, depending on the prevalence of Covid-19 – medium, high or very high risk.
Boris Johnson has announced that local authorities in the Liverpool city region will move into the Tier Three "very high" alert level from Wednesday.
— SkyNews (@SkyNews) October 12, 2020
The first minister said: “At a strategic level, we will be looking to align as closely as possible with the other UK nations – I think it is important and it makes sense to try to do that, though, I would stress that operational decisions about what tiers may apply in which parts of our nations will be for each of us to take at a devolved level.”
MSPs to consider measures
The new tiered alert system for Scotland will be put before MSPs for approval after the October recess and would come into effect when stricter measures are due to be eased on October 25.
The SNP leader also said her government would focus on promoting the importance of self-isolation during the next two weeks of restrictions, as it was an area where compliance is “not as high as we need it to be”.
When asked why this was, the first minister said this is because self-isolation for 14 days is “really difficult”.
She said the government must make it easier in practical terms for the public to stick to this, aided by the launch of the self-isolation support payment on Monday.
We have evidence of family and friend groups who have participated in coach travel, perhaps gone away on outings together, and subsequently members of those parties have tested positive.”
Dr Gregor Smith
Meanwhile, Scotland’s chief medical officer said people should think “very, very carefully” about taking coach trips to coronavirus hotspots around the UK.
Dr Gregor Smith’s comments come after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said positive cases among groups travelling on coaches together is a “theme emerging” in the Test and Protect data.
However, it is difficult to determine if transmission took place on the coaches or the venues each group visited.
“We have evidence of family and friend groups who have participated in coach travel, perhaps gone away on outings together, and subsequently members of those parties have tested positive,” he added.