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Covid: Nicola Sturgeon announces new home working guidance as Omicron cases drop

Nicola Sturgeon has announced a change to the current working from home guidance put in place to combat the spread of Covid-19 in Scotland.

With data showing Omicron was now “in reverse” in Scotland, the first minister says the government has decided to further relax the restrictions.

Rather than advising home working whenever possible, employers will be able to move to a “hybrid” model from Monday, January 31.

The announcement came in an update from Ms Sturgeon in the Scottish Parliament, where she said the situation had “significantly improved” from before Christmas, when temporary restrictions were put in place to stem the spread of the Omicron variant.

“This progress is real and I am very hopeful it can be sustained,” Ms Sturgeon said, but she warned that Scots should still exercise caution.

Employers can move to hybrid working model

Announcing the new home working guidance, Ms Sturgeon said: “From Monday January 31, employers should consider implementing hybrid working, with workers spending some time in the office and some time at home.”

But she says the government does not expect to see a wholesale return to the office from next week, warning: “A mass return at this stage is likely to set progress back.”

It comes as the latest Scottish Government figures show a further 8,022 new cases of coronavirus in Scotland.

Across Scotland there have been a further 23 deaths among people who have recently tested positive, taking the death toll under this measure to 10,222.

The government also says that 1,392 people in hospital have tested positive for coronavirus, while 23 people with the virus are being treated in intensive care units across the country.

‘The lifting of the legal requirement to work from home is good news’

Responding to the first minister’s update on the pandemic response, Russell Borthwick, chief executive at Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce (AGCC) said that city centres had been “crippled by these restrictions”.

He also urged a return to “the tried and tested solution of individual and corporate responsibility” when decided on hybrid working schedules.

He said: “The lifting of the legal requirement to work from home is the good news that many office-based businesses have been waiting to hear.

“Our city centres have been crippled by these restrictions and it is welcome that businesses and their employees can get back to work and revive our economies. The early return of this missing footfall might just avoid further closures and the existential erosion of our high streets.

“Future hybrid working models are likely to happen, however, it is important to recognise that it is not the role of government to interfere in the relationship between companies and their staff by mandating or even advising a permanent change in office working in the future. Employers and employees are best placed to decide what works for them.

“Companies have spent millions on making workplaces safe for staff and visitors and from today these businesses can begin the process of returning to full capacity and productivity. It’s time to revert to the tried and tested solution of individual and corporate responsibility.”

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