Professor Jason Leitch says he is “hopeful” a traditional Christmas will not have to be cancelled again in 2021 amid rising Covid-19 cases in Scotland and fears over how the NHS will cope.
People were allowed to gather in small groups on Christmas Day last year before the country went into another lockdown – but were encouraged not to mix at all where possible.
The national clinical director – who warned Scots to prepare for a “digital Christmas” in 2020 – was fielding questions on BBC Radio Scotland on Tuesday.
He told host Stephen Jardine: “The headline is that [in 2020] we cancelled Christmas; of course, no one can cancel Christmas.
“What we cancelled was the family gatherings around Christmas, which was horrible.
“I am hopeful that we won’t have to do that again.
“There is a bit of a storm coming in the winter. We’re not sure what flu will look like.
“The southern hemisphere, Australia and New Zealand, has had a relatively mild flu season.
“We’re hopeful that we will also have a mild flu season, but we cannot guarantee it. It will be stopped by the same things that stop Covid.
“But the winter for infectious disease is always tough. Our hospitals are prepared for that, we’re ready.
“The vaccination programme is about to begin, and I would encourage everybody to get their flu vaccine.”
Jillian Evans, head of health intelligence at NHS Grampian, says modelling suggests worse is still to come in terms of the virus.
She told Radio Scotland: “There’s every chance, and very likely, that case numbers will continue to rise unless there are some changes to restrictions.”
Ms Evans says there are limited ways now to keep the virus under control – such as self-isolating, testing and vaccination.
“I am really worried that things are going to get worse before they get better,” she added.
Scotland has seen record numbers of new daily cases in the last week, with nearly 38,000 new positive test results reported in the last seven days.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says the country is in a “fragile” place, refusing last week the rule out the need for new lockdown measures.
Prof Leitch was also quizzed about the isolation rules in force in schools, which relaxed to allow close contacts to remain in class.
Describing the decisions for politicians as “finely balanced”, he said: “The risk we’ve chosen to take is to remove the positive cases but not the contacts.
“If there are some exceptions to that, local public health leaders can make different choices if they are worried about a particular school.”