Nicola Sturgeon says 'there's a case' to tighten Christmas Covid rules

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says she has no “fixed position” on how relaxed restrictions should be over the festive period in the light of a new variant of coronavirus being detected.

And there will be no change to the priority list of who received the Covid vaccine, Ms Sturgeon said, after research showed those living in Scotland's poorest areas had been “disproportionately” affected by the virus.

The First Minister held talks with fellow devolved leaders and Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove on Tuesday night about the prospect of tightening up the proposed five-day relaxation of Covid rules between December 23-27.

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No final decision was reached after the half-hour call, but further talks will be held on Wednesday

Graffiti artists get together to create a Christmas mural down at the river Clyde at the Broomielaw. Picture: John DevlinGraffiti artists get together to create a Christmas mural down at the river Clyde at the Broomielaw. Picture: John Devlin
Graffiti artists get together to create a Christmas mural down at the river Clyde at the Broomielaw. Picture: John Devlin

A Scottish Government spokesperson said afterwards: “The Four Nations call was a good opportunity to review the position on Christmas and discuss whether the messaging or guidance requires to be reinforced.

"These discussions will continue tomorrow.”

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Ms Sturgeon yesterday rejected claims that the decision to ease the rules over the festive period had been “rushed”.

"It was carefully considered and agonised over because these decisions are not straightforward,” she told MSPs at Holyrood.

“But it’s important to retain the ability to be flexible, which is hard when people want certainty.

“Right now the rise is less severe here than in parts of England and in Wales, but we are seeing signs that the virus has not gone away. We also need to consider whether the the new variant could lead to more precautions."

The Scottish Government requested yesterday’s call in the wake of the news of the new variant in England.

Ms Sturgeon said: "There's a case at looking at whether we tighten the flexibilities that were given further in terms of duration and numbers of people meeting.

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“It would be preferable to come to a four nation agreement, but if that's not possible then we will consider within the Scottish Government what would be appropriate."

The First Minister was also asked about a report in the Lancet that had shown a “disproportionate” link between high Covid rates and deaths to the poorest areas in Scotland.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard asked if the rollout of the vaccine could give a “higher priority to those living in higher areas of deprivation?”

Ms Sturgeon said the government had been “aware for most of the last ten months there's a disproportionate impact on people living in more deprived areas and in becoming seriously ill, and perhaps dying”.

She said: “From the start we’ve tried to factor that into our responses, so much of the work we've done to provide additional financial support has been geared towards those living in poverty.”

However, Ms Sturgeon said there would be no change in terms of the vaccine rollout.

“We take recommendations from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, and they have put forward an order of priority based on greatest clinical risk,” she said.

“The order that they’ve put forward means the first group is for all population over the age of 50 and by the time they’re all vaccinated that will cover more than 90 per cent of preventable deaths.”

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