Covid Scotland: Businesses told to limit numbers and reintroduce one-way systems under new Scottish Government rules

Businesses will be “under immense strain”, leaders have warned, as new Scottish Government guidance to combat the Omicron variant requires them to limit numbers and erect screens to separate customers and staff from midnight.

Firms will be asked to use judgement to ensure their premises are not crowded and avoid unnecessary interaction between customers and staff under the new rules, which come into effect from one minute past midnight.

The regulations for Scotland’s businesses are a bid to combat the spread of the virus and have come amid criticism that firms were given less than 24 hours to implement changes.

The Scottish Chambers of Commerce said the short notice would put businesses “under immense strain” as they raced to put in mitigations which many have not used since the early days of the pandemic.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon beside a screen which was been erected around tables during a visit to Cold Town House in Edinburgh's Grassmarket in July 2020.

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The new rules stated that everyone who was able to work from home during the first lockdown should continue to do so, while businesses should reintroduce measures such as protective screens to separate customers and staff.

All staff who have to work in person should take a lateral flow test at least twice a week and more often if they are socialising outside of work, the guidance added.

The document published on Thursday afternoon by the Scottish Government also said businesses have a responsibility to increase the flow of air into their premises and consider maximum capacities – although formal physical distancing requirements are not in place.

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Shops should control the flows of customers entering and exiting and in-store to minimise risk of transmission.

Speaking at First Minister’s Questions, Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said the Government had issued “confusing and inaccurate advice to businesses”.

He warned clarity was needed for firms amid confusion from different government ministers as to when the guidance would be published.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney issued a correction after telling Holyrood’s Covid-19 Committee on Thursday morning the guidance would not be published until Friday.

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Mr Ross said: ““The SNP Government have left business guidance to the last minute again and created unnecessary confusion with their mixed messaging.

“Businesses have been told one thing by the First Minister on Tuesday and another thing today. They now need to comply with this guidance from Friday, 24 hours earlier than they were expecting.

“We all understand the situation is moving quickly. However, if the public are expected to adapt quickly, then it’s right we demand the Government adapts quickly too and gives people the information they need on time.

“This guidance has now, finally, been published. But there’s still no word on when struggling small businesses will get the funding they desperately need to survive this difficult period.”

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Ms Sturgeon said she had signed off the guidance minutes before the beginning of FMQs.