'Stay at home': Celtic and Hibs fans urged to avoid Premiership midweek fixtures by John Swinney

Fans planning to attend football games on Wednesday should stay at home, Deputy First Minister John Swinney has said.

Hibs are due to face Aberdeen on Wednesday with fans at Easter Road - despite the Scottish Government plans for restricted attendances. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)
Hibs are due to face Aberdeen on Wednesday with fans at Easter Road - despite the Scottish Government plans for restricted attendances. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

Restrictions being reimposed for large events means just 500 fans will be able to attend games after Boxing Day, but supporters have been urged to stay away from grounds before that date.

St Mirren are due to take on Celtic on Wednesday evening, while Hibernian face Aberdeen and St Johnstone take on Ross County in the final games allowed to operate at full capacity until at least the middle of January.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland' s Good Morning Scotland programme on Wednesday morning, Mr Swinney said: "Our guidance to people is basically to restrict their social interaction - to stay at home more than they would do so.

"I would encourage people to do exactly that.

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"There are clearly dangers of people travelling to football matches, because they're going to be going on to multiple forms of transport, they will be car-sharing, they may well be using supporters' buses and all the rest of it.

"These are opportunities for the virus to spread and we know that the Omicron variant spreads much more aggressively than is the case (with other variants).

"If people want to protect their community then I would encourage them to follow the guidance that we have set, which is to stay at home and restrict their social interaction."

Mr Swinney had said on Tuesday he regrets curbs on large events had not been brought in earlier, adding that the Premier Sports Cup final on Sunday between Celtic and Hibernian at Hampden could have been a "super-spreader" event - although the level of transmission between fans is not yet clear.

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Teams in the Scottish top flight are pushing to bring forward the scheduled winter break, which would postpone matches due to be played while restrictions are in place.

Mr Swinney said the cancellation of games is for footballing authorities to decide, rather than Government.

On Tuesday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced a further £200 million will be found from the Scottish Government budget before the end of this financial year to support businesses hit by the latest restrictions.

Along with a maximum of 500 people for outdoor events, from Boxing Day the new curbs also limit the number of people allowed at indoor events to 100 for standing and 200 for seated, table service only will return in hospitality, and large-scale Hogmanay celebrations have had to be cancelled.

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Mr Swinney said the funding - which will be added to £175 million of UK Government cash - will result in some other Government plans being slowed down.

He said: "We're basically going to be putting pressure on different parts of government to identify underspends, to slow up programmes - so there will be an effect on other areas of policy - but it is necessary to make sure we can put some support in place to assist the business community."

He went on to say a final decision on where the funding is coming from has not yet been identified.

The Scottish Government will, the Deputy First Minister went on to say, consider a move to reduce the period of self-isolation to seven days, as is the case south of the border.

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But he added: "What we have to recognise is that the number of cases is likely to become so significant, it's already much more significant, we're already looking at around 5,500 cases a day compared to about 3,500 a day which was just a week ago.

"That's going to give rise to significant absence levels in our public and private sectors and that brings into question the sustainability of some of these services - which is why we have to act to try to slow down the circulation of the virus."

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