Nicola Sturgeon coronavirus briefing RECAP: The First Minister to appear in parliament for FMQs

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The First Minister released vital Christmas guidance at a press conference in Edinburgh on Wednesday.

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Nicola Sturgeon insists it is 'right' to keep Scottish schools open

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People are recommended to remain with their own households in their own house at Christmas, only forming Christmas bubbles if they absolutely have to.

Coronavirus in Scotland LIVE: Follow here for all Thursday's updates.

She added that if someone hasn’t already planned a Christmas bubble, they now shouldn’t.

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Coronavirus in Scotland: Follow here for all Thursday’s updates.

Last updated: Thursday, 17 December, 2020, 12:45

  • The First Minister has issued vital Christmas guidance. 
  • More than 18,000 already received first dose of coronavirus vaccine.
  • 900 Scots told to self-isolate in error after technical fault in app. 

‘That is the best way of keeping yourself and your loved ones safe’ - Nicola Sturgeon issues vital Christmas guidance to Scotland

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, along with the leaders of the UK Government and the Welsh Government, has issued guidance on how people should celebrate Christmas this year.

Neil Gaiman: Coronavirus has made me realise how fragile the world is

Neil Gaiman says the coronavirus pandemic has made him realise how "fragile" the world is.

The author said that civilisation "can break so easily and it can break for any of us".

Gaiman, 60, who is a goodwill ambassador for UNHCR, the UN's refugee agency, was speaking as he unveiled a list of films aiming to spread hope amid the pandemic.

He told the PA news agency: "Looking at civilisation, especially in these Covid days... it is so fragile."

Gaiman said he never stops "being aware that this can go away".

He said that on a trip to a Jordanian refugee camp he met people from Syria who "had worked in corner shops, they had sold insurance, they had worked in car showrooms".

The American Gods writer added: "Whether we have a place to live in or not, we are all dealing with a world of Covid-19 and that Covid-19 world that we are in is awful.

"The vulnerable are more vulnerable than ever."

French president Emmanuel Macron has coronavirus.

Deputy First Minister cannot rule out post Christmas lockdown

Tougher coronavirus restrictions after Christmas - including a potential lockdown - is a "possibility" due to a "rising tide of Covid", the Deputy First Minister has said.

John Swinney said on Thursday that the Cabinet will meet as it usually does on Tuesday to discuss restrictions across the country, but could not rule out the imposition of strict new measures in Scotland.

According to Mr Swinney, cases are beginning to rise again in Scotland, with 99 cases per 100,000 people 10 days ago increasing to 116.

"Unfortunately, in Scotland today, we are in a rising tide of coronavirus cases," he told the BBC.

"The less we do to have social interaction in the period going forward, the better, in terms of stemming the rise in coronavirus cases within our community."

The Welsh Government announced on Wednesday that tougher restrictions will be imposed on the country immediately after the Christmas easing period, which is due to end on December 27.

Asked if the Scottish Government is considering similar measures, the Deputy First Minister did not rule out the idea of a lockdown or tougher restrictions.

"We'll have to look at what the forward prospects look like, we'll have to take decisions that will be sustainable for a period into January and February to protect the public interest and protect the National Health Service," he said.

Asked specifically if there could be greater restrictions or a possible lockdown, he said: "That could be a possibility, I can't rule it out.

"We are on a rising tide of coronavirus cases.

"We will be looking, as we always do, at what the outlook is based on the data in front of us, and we have to take decisions, difficult decisions to make sure we protect the public from a highly dangerous virus."

Mr Swinney also said it is too early to say if areas of Scotland will be moved into higher levels of protection when the Cabinet meets on Tuesday, a session that is not expected to go ahead over the Christmas period, but was announced by the First Minister on Tuesday in Parliament.

One of the operators running the Government’s Test and Trace call centre and testing site programmes has agreed to return furlough cash claimed during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Outsourcing giant Serco also said it would pay 50,000 staff a one-off bonus following bumper profits made during the crisis.

The furlough and bonuses will cost the company £8 million, it added.

Bosses also said tentative talks about paying out a dividend to shareholders ended with the decision not to make a payout, saying the second wave of the virus meant "this is not the right time to make a decision".

The company faced a backlash from politicians and unions earlier in the year when it first floated the idea of paying out a dividend from excess profits made from its services during the pandemic.

In an update to the stock market, the company said it still expected underlying trading profits, its preferred measure, to be up by around 35% to between £160 million and £165 million.

Around 4% of the boost to profits came from Covid-19 contract wins, once the furlough repayments and bonus are taken into consideration.

Revenues for the group, which also runs hospitals and prisons across the globe, are expected to hit £3.9 billion for the year, up by 19%.

The company added that, since the start of the year, Serco has created directly and via sub-contractors more than 10,000 net new jobs worldwide, with the majority supporting governments with their Covid-19 response.

Large swathes of southern England will be placed under Tier 3 restrictions from Saturday due to rising coronavirus levels.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock set out the findings of the first full review of England's tier allocations, with very little good news for areas already under tough restrictions.

Instead he was forced to place more areas under the toughest measures, closing pubs, restaurants and cinemas.

Mr Hancock said areas moving into Tier 3 are: Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Peterborough, the whole of Hertfordshire, Surrey with the exception of Waverley, Hastings and Rother on the Kent border of East Sussex, and Portsmouth, Gosport and Havant in Hampshire.

But Bristol and North Somerset will move from Tier 3 to Tier 2, while Herefordshire will move from Tier 2 to Tier 1.

Mr Hancock said the UK has "come so far" and "mustn't blow it now".

Making a statement in the Commons, he told MPs: "As we enter the coldest months we must be vigilant and keep this virus under control."

The cautious approach comes amid mounting concern about the prospect of a surge in cases following the easing of restrictions over the Christmas period.

Scottish Government coronavirus update: 858 positive cases, 1,012 patients in hospital, 50 patients in intensive care and 30 deaths have been registered.

Ruth Davidson raises the drugs deaths in Scotland.

FM: Figures this week are ‘completely unacceptable’.

FM: "We need to do more and we need to do more quickly"

Meeting in January to establish what steps to take. 

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