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COVID: Scotland’s new coronavirus restrictions expected to last for three weeks, Nicola Sturgeon says

Nicola Sturgeon has said it is her “expectation” that new COVID restrictions in Scotland will be in place until 17 January, as she urged people to “stay at home right now more than normal”.

Since 27 December, nightclubs in Scotland have been forced to close unless they operate as a pub with table service and distancing. Indoor hospitality and leisure venues must reintroduce table service, a one-metre distance rule, and to implement a cap of no more than three households in any group.

From Boxing Day, public events in Scotland have been limited to up to 100 people at indoor standing events, up to 200 people at indoor seated events, and up to 500 people at either seated or standing outdoor events – impacting Hogmanay celebrations.

Addressing a virtual hearing of the Scottish Parliament, Scotland’s first minister said her government review the new measures “on an ongoing basis”, but that it was her expectation that they would be in place for three weeks.

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“The new protective measures relating to hospitality, public indoor places and live events that I set out last week are now in force,” Ms Sturgeon said.

“We will review these on an ongoing basis – however, at this stage, our expectation is that they will be in force until 17 January.

“That means, for now, limits on the size of live public events – though private events such as weddings are exempt.”

She also announced that Scotland posted a record high of 15,849 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday – beating the Boxing Day tally by 4,819.

As of Tuesday night, 679 people were in hospital in Scotland with coronavirus – 80 more than the previous day – and three more people had died with COVID, taking the total number of coronavirus-related deaths to 9,836.

‘Steep increase in cases’ expected

Ms Sturgeon told MSPs that the new Omicron variant is now responsible for approximately 80% of new cases and is “rapidly developing”. It’s since been revealed to be making up more than 90% of cases in England.

She added that she expects “steep increases in cases” over coming weeks. However, the first minister confirmed there would be no immediate changes to coronavirus rules in Scotland.

Ms Sturgeon only stressed that people should “stay at home right now more than normal”.

She also suggested isolation rules could be shortened after the UK government’s move to allow people infected with COVID in England to stop isolating up to three days early if they test negative twice on days six and seven.

She said ministers “hope to reach decisions in the next week, with any changes taking effect from 5 January”.

Noting that testing capacity is “under pressure”, Ms Sturgeon added that the Scottish government is “prioritising some slots for essential workers” and for those “clinically vulnerable or eligible for new COVID treatments” to ensure they receive test results promptly.

The first minister also set out how £100m of a £275m business support fund has been allocated – with £16m available to support transport providers, £27m for the culture sector, and £17m to the events sector.

“A further £32m will be allocated to hospitality and leisure businesses, with an additional £10m for those parts of the hospitality industry most severely impacted by the requirement for table service – and up to £5m will be available for nightclubs required to close,” she said.

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