Families told to ‘cut down contacts’ before Christmas and stay safe as possible

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon – predicted to call a halt to all Christmas parties.

By Bill Heaney

Local people have been urged to “cut down on unnecessary contacts” now if they plan to meet up with relatives at Christmas.

Rules on household meetings are being eased for five days over the festive period, allowing up to eight people from three households to meet indoors.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said those who choose to do this should cut contacts now to be as safe as possible.

She said the “best Christmas gift we can give family and friends” is to “keep our distance and keep them safe”.

She gave the impression that she would rather people stayed at home in their own house and did no socialising at all over the festive period, and that the five-day holiday should be abandoned altogether.

Hugging, kissing, dancing and shaking hands are all definitely a no no.

Ms Sturgeon also urged people not to hold office Christmas parties, saying they present a “real risk of transmission”.

People will be allowed to form Christmas “bubbles” of three households between 23 and 27 December.

Ms Sturgeon said this was a “pragmatic step” to make the festive period “as safe as possible” for those who feel they must meet up – but has repeatedly urged people not to do it unless absolutely necessary.

At her coronavirus briefing on Monday, the first minister said Christmas might be “the toughest” point of the pandemic for many, but she added that people In Scotland should “think really carefully” about gathering indoors.

She said: “Hopefully next year this will all be a bad memory and we’ll be looking forward to a much more normal Christmas.

“What we should be thinking about this Christmas is about ensuring that everyone we love is still there when we get to next Christmas, and that we’re not losing more people to Covid along the way.”Ms Sturgeon said people planning to meet up should “reduce unnecessary contacts between now and then”, particularly if they will be seeing elderly relatives.

She suggested people avoid catching up with friends in cafes or car-sharing in the run-up to Christmas.

The first minister said: “By taking precautions to cut down on unnecessary contact then we reduce any chance of getting the virus and inadvertently passing it on.”

The first minister also urged people not to hold office Christmas parties, saying they present “a real risk of transmission” particularly if alcohol is involved.

She could’t quite bring herself to say “just forget the whole thing,” but sources close to her are predicting she will do just that before church bells ring out for Christmas.

She said: “Perhaps think about postponing your Christmas celebration until spring or summer next year, when hopefully we will see some greater normality return to our lives.

“I know all of this is very hard at the end of a horrible year, but these are not normal times and it’s important we get through them as safely as possible.”

‘Failure of leadership’

There have been concerns about rising cases of the virus in some parts of the UK, with London facing a move to the highest tier of restrictions in England.

However, the UK government has said it has “no plans to review the Christmas guidelines” which will allow greater mixing.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross, who is swithering about the whole business of get-togethers  said “all politicians are right to highlight the risks” around the festive period.

He said: “This is not a risk-free option – this is an option to allow people to come together to celebrate Christmas, but to do so in a way that will be different to what we have experienced before.

“Let’s do it safely – let’s allow families as they can to come together in a small way, but know the risks of that and try to minimise the risks.”

The Scottish Greens meanwhile said Ms Sturgeon’s plea to cut contacts was contradictory to her stance on keeping all schools open.

MSP Ross Greer said there was a “very real chance that teachers could be spending their Christmas day calling pupils and their families to inform them they were a close contact of someone who tested positive and must self-isolate”, calling this a “failure of leadership” by the government.

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