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Scotland’s traditional Hogmanay celebrations are to be cancelled and live sports will be “effectively spectator-free” for three weeks from Boxing Day as part of new Covid-19 restrictions, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
The First Minister also introduced new curbs on hospitality and urged people to “stay at home as much as possible” until at least the first week of January.
The Scottish Chambers of Commerce said the measures will be “another hammer blow for employers and Scotland’s economy”.
Crowds at outdoor public events will be capped at 500 from Boxing Day for at least three weeks.
Numbers at indoor public events are to be limited to 100 standing or 200 seated.
3,860,298 people in Scotland have been tested for #coronavirus
The total confirmed as positive has risen by 5,242 to 811,927
Sadly 9 more people who tested positive have died (9,790 in total)
Latest update ➡️ https://t.co/bZPbrCoQux
Health advice ➡️ https://t.co/l7rqArB6Qu pic.twitter.com/ZIacgez8lB
— Scottish Government (@scotgov) December 21, 2021
The move has been made to cut down transmission of the Omicron coronavirus variant and because “large events put an additional burden on emergency services”, Ms Sturgeon said.
The restrictions do not apply to private events such as weddings.
For three weeks from January 27, pubs and other venues selling alcohol will be required to offer table service only.
Indoor hospitality and leisure venues will also need to ensure one-metre social distancing between groups of people who are attending together.
Announcing the restrictions, Ms Sturgeon said: “This will of course make sports matches, including football, effectively spectator-free over this three-week period.
“And it will also mean that large-scale Hogmanay celebrations, including that planned here in our capital city, will not proceed.
“I know how disappointing this will be for those looking forward to these events, and for the organisers of them.”
The latest coronavirus figures in Scotland show there were nine new deaths and 5,242 positive tests in the last 24 hours.
Ms Sturgeon told MPs that Omicron is now firmly established as the dominant strain of coronavirus in Scotland.
She said 62.9% of cases showed the S-gene dropout indicative of the virus and that it was “spreading rapidly”.
Despite the measures, the First Minister insisted this year’s Christmas will be “more normal” than last year’s.
“Just a few days before Christmas, I am again urging people to stay at home as much as possible, to slow down a highly infectious new variant,” she said.
“But, although it may not feel like it, we are in a much stronger position than last year.
“We have had far fewer restrictions in place for much of this year than was the case last year.
“Christmas Day will be more normal.
“Most importantly, a rapidly increasing number of adults is now protected by three doses of vaccine.”
Recent funding from the Treasury will give Scotland an extra £175 million to spend on mitigating the effects of the measures, Ms Sturgeon said.
The First Minister told MSPs the entirety of this sum would go towards supporting businesses, bringing the total package for business support over the next three weeks to £375 million.
Dr Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said the “confirmation that yet more restrictions will come into place from Boxing Day will be another hammer blow for employers and Scotland’s economy”.
Responding to the @ScotGovFM #Covid19 update, @LizCameronSCC said: “Businesses have already lost millions in trade and further restrictions will be another hammer blow for employers and Scotland’s economy.”
Read the full @ScotChambers response 📄 ⤵️https://t.co/S6u8ukgAuX
— Scottish Chambers (@ScotChambers) December 21, 2021
She said: “Businesses across Scotland, who have been doing everything they can to keep their employees and customers safe, will be bitterly disappointed by these further restrictions.
“Some businesses and sectors will view this update as the equivalent of receiving a lump of coal in their Christmas stocking, further compounding the downturn in trade they have experienced in the crucial run-up to the festive period.”
Andrew McRae, Scotland policy chairman for the Federation of Small Businesses, said the measures will make trading “drastically more difficult” during what will be a “gruelling winter and spring”.
He said: “The social distancing restrictions will mean shops and hospitality firms can serve fewer customers.
“And the changes to events, such as sports matches and Hogmanay celebrations, will have a knock-on impact on local economies.
“After a disappointing festive trading period, these moves will heap pressure on local firms and the self-employed.
“These operators now face tough decisions about whether they open their doors with restrictions in place or stop trading until they’re lifted.”