Crowd numbers will be capped at just 500 for outdoor events and 200 for indoors shows until 17 January as part of the Scottish Government’s strategy of trying to stop the new Omicoron variant of Covid spreading in “high-risk” settings.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the current pressures on the health service and the country’s high Covid rates – which suggest that one in 20 of the population were infected last week – were likely to be even more severe without restrictions on potential “super-spreader” events.
However she admitted that the current restrictions on public life in Scotland were "not sustainable indefinitely” and suggested that new ways of managing Covid would be “more proportionate and sustainable, and less restrictive."
And the First Minister added: “I hope very much that we won’t have to go beyond 17 January with these restrictions.”
Hundreds of events have been called off since the government announced new restrictions for “up to three weeks” just before Christmas.
The current measures, which took effect from Boxing Day, insist that one metre physical distancing is enforced in all indoor and outdoor settings, and could impact on events like Glasgow’s Celtic Connections music festival, which is due to start on 20 January.
Ms Sturgeon said: “With the virus so prevalent, we do consider it important to continue to apply some brake on transmission, particularly in settings posing the highest risk.
"The restrictions on large gatherings, the requirement for distancing between groups in public indoor places and for table service in hospitality venues serving alcohol on the premises will remain in force for now and, I expect, until 17 January.
“We are continuing to advise the general public to limit contact with people in other households as far as possible, and to limit the number of households in any indoor gathering to a maximum of three.”
Asked about the prospects of the Six Nations rugby tournament, which gets underway in February, being affected, Ms Sturgeon said: “There's many things that I really wish I had had over the course of this pandemic. One of them is a crystal ball to be able to see into the future with certainty. It is really difficult, particularly at this stage of a phase of a wave of the virus, to be certain about the future.
"That's why we need to monitor things on a closer time basis.
"I don’t do anybody any good if I try to give certainty ahead of our ability to do that.
"I certainly do very firmly hope that these matches will go ahead – and will go ahead to crowds of supporters.”
Ms Sturgeon said the government needed to become “more resilient” to Covid given it was unlikely to "disappear" or for Omicron to be the last new variant.
She added: “This does not mean giving up trying to control it at all - the impact of Covid on individual health and on our collective wellbeing is too significant for that.
“But it does mean seeking ways of doing so that are more proportionate and sustainable, and less restrictive.”