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Current COVID guidelines to continue into January

Scotland’s First Minister has urged the nation to continue exercising caution when socialising with other households, as we head into the New Year.

In a special briefing to the Scottish Parliament, this Wednesday afternoon, Nicola Sturgeon confirmed that there would be no immediate change to the guidelines currently in place.

This came amid record numbers of cases across Scotland, including more than 200 new cases recorded in Orkney since Christmas Eve.

While Ms Sturgeon said there were early indications that the Omicron variant, which is now the most prevalent in Scotland, is linked to fewer hospitalisations than other strains of the virus, she warned against “complacency”.

The Scottish Government will be monitoring the situation in the coming days and weeks in order to make safe and effective decisions around ongoing restrictions.

The First Minister said: “This situation we face now is not what any of us want, and the period immediately ahead will not be easy.

“That said, I hope the clearer picture we will have in the next couple of weeks will also prove to be a much more positive picture.”

As it stands, the pandemic guidelines we are all asked to follow are:

  • Household mixing — no more than three households should meet in a contained space such as a home at any one time. If you are planning to meet friends or extended family over the Hogmanay and New Year period, you are advised to take a lateral flow test before doing so.
  • Social isolation — If you develop COVID-19 symptoms, or receive a positive lateral flow result, you must immediately self-isolate with your household and seek a PCR test. If you receive a positive PCR result, you and everyone in your household must self-isolate for 10 days, regardless of whether some members have a negative lateral flow or PCR. Some exemptions may apply for health and social care workers.
  • Hospitality — For indoor standing events, the limit is 100 and for indoor seated events, 200. For outdoor events, it is 500 seated or standing. Pubs are limited to table service only. These rules are expected to remain in force until at least January 17.
  • General advice — As always, everyone is asked to practice good hand and respiratory hygiene, and to wear a face covering when entering shops and other business settings. The First Minister has advised us to “stay at home” as much as possible during the New Year period and into the first week of January.
  • Testing — If you require a PCR test, you can simply drive to the COVID Testing Centre in Kirkwall. No appointment needed. If necessary (i.e., you don’t/can’t drive), you can phone 0300 303 9545 for further assistance.

As elsewhere across Scotland, all who are eligible are being encouraged to take up their COVID-19 booster vaccine, as part of the “Boosted Before the Bells” campaign. NHS Orkney is continuing to invite people to receive their vaccine, over the festive period.

The festive opening hours for the COVID Testing Centre and Vaccination Centre are available on  https://www.ohb.scot.nhs.uk/news/festive-timetable-covid-testing-centre-and-kirkwall-vaccination-centre-21-december-2021.