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Nicola Sturgeon urges Scots to ‘act now or Omicron will cost lives’

Nicola Sturgeon has warned Scots to “act now” and stop Omicron causing more deaths and doing “untold damage” to the country.

The first minister explained the serious threat of the new strain in a personal plea to the nation on TV.

Ms Sturgeon announced a return to social distancing in shops and urged people to cancel social plans.

The measures are not being put into law, but Ms Sturgeon said failure to take responsibility will quickly overwhelm the NHS.

In a short statement, she warned there could be up to 15,000 Omicron infections per day if the virus is allowed to spiral out of control.

First Minister’s address to the nation at St. Andrew’s House, Edinburgh.

Anticipating a ‘steep and rapid’ rise

Ms Sturgeon said: “The last two years have been the toughest most of us can remember.

“I can never thank you enough for the sacrifices you have made.

“This winter, just as we thought we had turned a corner in the pandemic, the emergence of Omicron struck us a cruel blow.

“Omicron is much more transmissible than previous strains, and it is now spreading very quickly.

“We anticipate a steep and rapid rise in cases.”

‘Get your Covid booster’

Ms Sturgeon said every eligible adult will be given the chance to book a booster vaccine before the end of the year, with over 18s able to do so from Wednesday morning.

The first minister announced there will be financial support available to those who have to self-isolate.

But she warned the Scottish Government’s ability to provide financial assistance is limited.

She said: “We have put in place a package of financial support to help them.

“And we are making more money available to ensure eligible people can claim isolation payments.

“No one should find themselves unable to afford to do the right thing, to protect themselves and others from Covid.

“The reality, however, is that our resources are limited.

“The UK government holds the purse strings, and only they can put in place critical support such as furlough.

“Alongside the Welsh and Northern Irish governments, we are hoping they will do more.”

No plans to cancel Christmas

Ms Sturgeon did however draw the line at imposing restrictions on Christmas Day.

She said: “Please believe me when I say I would not be asking you to sacrifice more, if I did not think it essential for the health and wellbeing of all of us.

“We are not banning household mixing in law, as we had to do before.

“We know the impact of this on mental health.

“And I am not asking you to cancel or change your plans for Christmas Day, Boxing Day, or whenever you have your main festive celebration.

“But in the run up to, and in the aftermath of Christmas, I am asking – I am appealing – to everyone to cut down as far as possible our contacts with people in other households.

“My key request to all of you today is, as far as you can, please minimise your indoor social interactions with other households at this time.

“We are asking this because Omicron is so infectious.”

She adds if someone in a social group is infected with the Omicron variant, it is likely to infect “many” others in the group.

To help tackle this, the first minister is urging people to stick to a maximum of three households when they meet up.

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