Coronavirus in Scotland: Jason Leitch tells Scots to plan 'digital Christmas'

Professor Jason Leitch has said Scots should “get their digital Christmas ready” as he warned that this year's festive season is “not going to be normal” amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Appearing on BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland on Thursday, Scotland's national clinical director was asked for his prognosis for the festive season.

He said: “It's honestly too early to say. I'm worried first about Halloween and November the 5th – and then we may turn our minds to Christmas.

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“I'm hopeful costs now may get us a more family Christmas – but Christmas is not going to be normal. There's actually no question about that.

“We are not going to be in large groupings with multiple families coming round – that is fiction for this year.

“But, I'm hopeful that if we can get the numbers down to a certain level, we may be able to get some form of normality.

“People should get their digital Christmas ready,” he added.

Scotland's National Clinical Director Professor Jason Leitch.

The First Minister has previously insisted it was too early to plan for Christmas, saying it was too soon to tell what impact restrictions are having on the spread of the virus.

Nicola Sturgeon said that "all of our decisions will be balanced by an assessment of the wider harms that Covid and the measures we are taking to tackle it are having".

Opposition politicians said the Scottish public would be “devastated” by Professor Leitch’s latest comments and called on the Scottish Government to provide them with more details.

Responding to the comments from Prof Leitch on GMS, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said the Scottish Government must now allow an open public debate if it "expects months more of sacrifices".

He said: “People have made huge sacrifices for months on end, they will be devastated to hear that Christmas as they know it is cancelled this year.

"Many will rightly question whether the government have used the past six months as well as they could have to expand testing, shore up our NHS and prepare for a second wave.“If the government expects months more of sacrifices it needs to be honest with the public – Nicola Sturgeon must release the data and projections underpinning these proposals and allow the public to debate them openly.”

Prof Leitch also told Good Morning Scotland on Thursday that updated figures on the R number should show that the current restrictions are having some effect.

He said: “Our number will be published either today or tomorrow and I'm hopeful that will be down just a little.

"It still won’t be anywhere near we’re beginning to see the deceleration of that increase.”

Commenting, Scottish Conservative Public Health Spokesman Brian Whittle said: “Time and again, we’ve seen how important clear and concise communication is in controlling the spread of Covid.

“If the mess around students returning to university proved anything, it’s that when statements have to be changed and clarified after being made, it almost always leads to problems.

“We have to be realistic and accept that this Christmas very probably won’t be normal, but that’s a different thing from suggesting that families might only be able to get together online.

“When the public are so desperate for information, it’s vital that every Minister and official chooses their words carefully.”

Interim Chief Medical Officer for Scotland Gregor Smith, writing on Twitter, said: “Jason Leitch was asked a question about Christmas to which he responded with all the honesty I associate him with. This is now being twisted and misreported, not just in social media but by media outlets. His remarks were bad news but truthful and open and his abuse now is shameful.”

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