Scots are being urged to follow coronavirus rules and not meet for Hogmanay.
Restrictions are being eased from December 23 to 27 for Christmas, but the Scottish Government has advised Scots that any indoor mixing is done only in small groups and for short times if it is deemed necessary.
At a meeting of the Scottish Parliament’s Covid-19 Committee on Thursday, Constitution Secretary Mike Russell said Scots should not “do Hogmanay”, in line with coronavirus restrictions.
He said: “If somebody can meet out of doors, they are permitted to meet out of doors and maybe would wish to meet out of doors at midnight, but don’t in any sense do it if you don’t feel you should do it.
“The rules that apply within the area that you live have to be applied, absolutely and to the letter.
“There is no relaxation at Hogmanay.
“No ifs, no buts, there is no relaxation on the requirements of the area in which you live.”
He said people attending or hosting parties when restrictions are in place will be “putting themselves and others at serious risk of death”.
National clinical director Professor Jason Leitch told the committee: “Hogmanay is not cancelled, gatherings are cancelled, so you should celebrate in your household.”
He likened the restrictions during Hogmanay to those in place at Easter, Mother’s Day and over Halloween, as well as during other faith holidays such as Hanukkah and Eid.
Allowing a New Year’s Eve relaxation, Prof Leitch told MSPs, would have increased the chances of spreading the virus after the easing of the rules at Christmas.
“Our challenge here was, particularly with Christmas relaxation, potential increased prevalence, to then add another relaxation six or seven days later would perhaps spread that positivity further around,” he said.
“That’s why our advice was very strongly that Hogmanay shouldn’t have the same relaxation.”
Meanwhile, Prof Leitch also admitted there are some people in the country that he, or any other experts, will be unable to convince that the coronavirus vaccine is safe.
He said that from data he has seen, 27 million people will “run towards” the vaccine when it is made available to them, while another 27 million will be “hesitant” but will simply want more information about the jab and its approval process.
Of the hesitant cohort, Prof Leitch said: “They’re not anti-vax, they’re not suggesting that vaccines are a bad thing, they just want more information, they want to know that it’s safe, they want to know that the regulator has done all the right things.
“They want to know from clinical advisers, forgive me folks, not always from politicians, it is safe to have this vaccine.”
But he said there is one group even the best experts will struggle to get through to.
“To be completely honest, I’m not sure there’s much I can do for the extreme edge who think we’re microchipping the vaccine to follow people around the country, I’m not sure there’s much I can do to communicate with that group.”
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