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Sturgeon urges people to think twice about their Christmas plans as she confirms no changes to restrictions

Nicola Sturgeon apologised for the breach
Nicola Sturgeon apologised for the breach

The first minister has announced there will be no change to the easing of restriction over the Christmas period – but urged people to reconsider their plans.

Nicola Sturgeon issued a note of caution during today’s coronavirus briefing and underlined the risk of transmission during the five-day respite – which she warned was the maximum, not a “target”.

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove resumed crisis talks this morning with all four nations over the plans for up to three households to mix between December 23 and 27.

After discussions, leaders decided there will be no changes made to the planned relaxations over the festive period.

However, leaders have agreed for stronger messaging around the need for people to limit their contacts at Christmas.

The public will be urged to keep travel to a minimum and use common sense in regard to social contact.

Ms Sturgeon said: “The fact that these discussions have happened reflect in parts of the UK cases are rising again.

“Scotland’s case levels at the moment remain lower than other nations – but even so, we can’t be complacent and we need to consider the evolving situation.

“We intend to issue updated guidance later today and we hope that this will be agreed on a four nations basis.”

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She added that discussions have not yet concluded regarding the matter.

“We recognise that in some cases the isolation of being alone at Christmas will in itself cause harm to people’s welfare and we understand that some people will simply not be prepared to leave loved ones alone throughout the whole Christmas period.

“I also recognise some people have already made plans for Christmas and it’s for those reasons the four nations have agreed to give people some clear boundaries around the Christmas period, rather than seek to prohibit any interaction altogether.”

Ms Sturgeon said that there is “no intention” to take away the flexibility.

“With that in mind, in my view, it wouldn’t be fair at this stage and wouldn’t be realistic either,” she added.

However, the Scottish Government will be strengthening guidance on how and why people should be making use of the flexibility.

The key elements for the Scottish public for the holiday period remain.

The first minister said the safest way to spend Christmas is to “spend it within your own household” and her “strong recommendation” is to do this where possible.

If people are considering meeting, to do so outdoors and in the event it is essential to meet indoors – the duration and number of people gathering should be limited as much as possible.

The five days is a “window of opportunity” where people can meet, but it is not a period that the government think it is “safe” or sensible to “get together”.

If you form a bubble, it is recommended you do not meet up with others for more than one day in that time frame and should not stay overnight, unless unavoidable.

The UK Government’s Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said that it would be up to people to make a “personal judgment” whether they wanted to meet up with vulnerable family members over the holiday period.

He suggested that some people may decide to “keep it small” and put off larger gatherings until the spring, saying: “Easter can be the new Christmas.”

He also told MPs that the four UK nations have agreed to continue “in principle” with the easing of coronavirus restrictions over Christmas.

However, he has urged people to “exercise extreme caution” while celebrating Christmas.

In Scotland, the rules will come into effect between December 23 and 27.

This will allow people to travel between local authority areas and to form Christmas bubbles with up to three households and a maximum of eight people, not including children under 12.

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