During her COVID-19 update today, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon covered the following (14/12/21):
The FM confirmed that 3,177 new cases of COVID-19 had been identified in the last 24 hours. She also confirmed that 541 people were in hospital, with 2 patients confirmed as having the Omicron variant. She also noted that there were 38 people in ICUS and that 6 deaths had occurred, bringing the total to 9,725.
The FM noted that the Omicron variant was spreading “very rapidly” across Scotland and was spreading faster than any other before it. She highlighted that this may well lead to increased hospitalisations, increasing the burden on the NHS.
The FM stressed the importance of delivering booster jags to ensure protection against the new variant. She described upping the speed of vaccination as her government’s “top priority”.
The FM said that it was her government’s target to get everyone eligible to receive a booster jag by 31 December. As part of this, she pointed to an increase in facilities and staff as well as the removal of the time period that individuals must wait before leaving the place in which they get their jag.
Turning to the additional protective measures, the FM confirmed that businesses would be asked to increase their mitigations and would be informed shortly on what that would mean but that it will include working from home, protective screens, and controlling crowded areas in shops and retail businesses. She also said the government would be increasing the use of facemasks and other measures.
The FM called on Scots to reduce the amount of mixing with other households they are currently doing to break the chains of transmission. She said she was not “cancelling Christmas”.
The FM said that there was no additional funding in place to help businesses deal with the additional requirements in place, placing the blame on a lack of financing from the UK Government. However, she said that an additional £100million had been found in the Scottish Government’s own resources to help hospitality and other businesses – the detail of which the Finance Secretary would later announce. She also said that an additional £100million had been identified to help those self-isolating.
During the following session of questions, the First Minister was provided with a note that said the UK Government would be providing additional funding to the devolved governments.
On hospitals and care settings, the FM confirmed that there would be limits placed on how many visitors patients and residents would be permitted.
The FM closed by reiterating her upset at having to impose these additional restrictions and urged everyone to follow them.
In the following session of questions, in her reply to Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross, the FM noted that it was her intention to ensure that the additional money confirmed for hospitality businesses would be with them as soon as possible. Responding to SNP MSP Paul McLennan, the FM said that she welcomed the additional resources from the UK Government in principle but required additional detail about it. Conservative MSP Craig Hoy raised the plight of hospitality businesses in his area, urging the FM to support them. The FM said that this was a matter under consideration. SNP MSP Joe Fitzpatrick criticised the UK’s funding arrangement’s impact on hospitality and asked the FM if she agreed with him, she did and called for the UK Government to provide more information. Conservative MSP Finlay Carson criticised the FM for removing ITV Border from the stations broadcasting her COVID-19 updates. The FM rebuked Mr Finlay, criticising his tone and what she saw as his insinuation that she didn’t want the South of Scotland to receive the information.