Nicola Sturgeon seeks 'right balance' for Christmas Covid rules

A relaxation of the Covid rules to allow Scots to enjoy family gatherings over Christmas must not lead to a spike in cases and "loss of life" in January, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

The First Minister said ministers will take into account the "reality of Christmas" as they consider the prospect of guidance to allow more get-togethers over the festive period.

A four-nations approach is being devised between Scotland and the rest of the UK administrations, Ms Sturgeon said as she addressed MSPs.

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But it came as one of Scotland's leading public health experts warned numbers were “not dropping fast enough” to allow Christmas meetings.

Members of the public walk past a window display at Harvey Nichols on November 11, 2020 in Edinburgh, Scotland. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Members of the public walk past a window display at Harvey Nichols on November 11, 2020 in Edinburgh, Scotland. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Deaths of Coronavirus patients in Scotland reached a six-month high on Wednesday when 64 were recorded, with a further 45 deaths yesterday.

"Christmas is really - it's important for all of us," Ms Sturgeon said.

Ms Sturgeon held "four-nations discussions" with the UK Government and leaders of the Welsh and Northern Ireland administrations last night and Christmas was on the agenda. Talks will continue in the weeks ahead.

"What's really important here is that we strike the right balance," she said.

"Firstly we've got to recognise that people want to spend time with their loved ones at Christmas. I'm no different to everybody else in that respect.

"We also have to recognise that we've got to give people confidence in any rules and restrictions that are in place and encourage maximum compliance and that means recognising the reality of the Christmas period and we all want to get to that position.

"But we also have to be sensible. We have to think if people are going to be interacting more over Christmas, what are we advising people to do after Christmas, in January, for example, to minimise the risk.

"We just have to make sure that for all of us being able to enjoy Christmas a bit more is not going to lead to loss of life or illness in January or February that could otherwise be avoided.

"I wish probably on this more than any other aspects there was an easy answer, but there's not. But we need to try to get to a sensible position.”

Professor Linda Bauld said case numbers were not going down quickly enough despite the current restrictions and warned it was "difficult" to look ahead to a period where people might be able to see others who are not from their household indoors.

Prof Bauld, professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh, told BBC Good Morning Scotland: "If you look at the local authorities within Greater Glasgow and Clyde, particularly East Dunbartonshire and West Dunbartonshire actually, around an 11 per cent increase in East Dunbartonshire in cases over the last week and 12 per cent in west Dunbartonshire, and even in Glasgow City it's not going down. In fact there is a very small increase between the last two weeks.

"We really need to get those numbers down.

"I think also the Scottish Government will be looking ahead to the holiday season and the pressure they are under. Quite understandably, people want to see their friends and families, even just for a few days, over that period and I think, to make that possible, we need to be making better progress in some parts of Scotland."

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