Sturgeon: Temporary easing of Covid-19 rules at Christmas will ease isolation

Nicola Sturgeon has agreed a temporary easing of coronavirus restrictions – but warned Scots there will be no similar arrangements for Hogmanay.

The First Minister gave her backing to plans agreed jointly with the UK Government and the devolved administrations in Wales and Northern Ireland, which will allow people from a maximum of three households to meet in a “bubble”.

This will only be allowed for a short period over the Christmas, from December 23 to 27.

Ms Sturgeon said the move was aimed at reducing the impact of “isolation and loneliness” over the festive break, but she warned that even this “short relaxation gives the virus the chance to spread”.

Households will be able to travel between local authority areas and between the four nations of the UK, but must only join one bubble.

People will then be able to meet in a home, outdoors or at a place of worship.

In all other settings, such as hospitality and entertainment venues, those who have formed a bubble must only socialise with members of their own household.

Those who do form a bubble will be advised to limit social contact before and after the period when restrictions are relaxed.

Ms Sturgeon said: “We know that for some, contact with friends and family is crucial during this time as isolation and loneliness can hit people especially hard over the Christmas period. The ‘bubble’ approach aims to reduce this impact.

“But we must be clear, there cannot be any further relaxation of measures for Hogmanay. Even this short relaxation will give the virus a chance to spread.

“Our priority is to suppress transmission of Covid-19 and reduce the risk to the vulnerable and those who have spent so long shielding – and that involves abiding by the rules.

“Just because you can mix with others indoors over this time, that doesn’t mean you have to. If you choose to stick with the rules as they are, then you will be continuing the hard work to beat this virus and prevent its spread.”

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said: “I’m very pleased we have secured agreement right across the UK to ensure families can meet, albeit in a far more limited way than usual, this Christmas.

“Christmas has a special place in all of our hearts. It is a time when many of us look forward to spending time with friends and relatives, and many families come together from all parts of the UK.

SCOTLAND Coronavirus Cases
SCOTLAND Coronavirus Cases

“This Christmas will not be what we are used to. Because of the virus, it simply cannot be. But a limited easing of restrictions will allow us to see some of our loved ones at this important time.

“More household mixing does mean more chance for the virus to spread, however, and I urge people to be as careful and responsible as possible over the Christmas period.”

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said the announcement of arrangements for Christmas would “come as a huge relief to people across Scotland, after weeks of speculation and doubt about whether families would be able to spend Christmas together this year”.

He said it was “welcome that sensible and safe arrangements have been agreed” but added: “We still need to be acutely aware of the fact that there will still be many Scots who face spending Christmas alone.

“Loneliness has surged during the pandemic, with grievous consequences for mental health and wellbeing.

“It’s important that we all look out for people facing isolation during the festive period, and that appropriate support is given to them.”