In the coming days and weeks, we expect to see a continued and potentially rapid rise in cases, and for Omicron to account for a rising share of these cases. Given these developments, we are asking you to put in place contingency plans immediately.
Given the significant risk posed by Omicron, the Scottish Government has agreed it would be inappropriate to lift any of the protections currently in place. On top of this, the Scottish Government agreed that compliance with the existing protections must be strengthened – although in isolation alone that may not be enough.
We require all businesses and sectors to continue to consider ways to strengthen compliance with current baseline measures – taking extra efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19 throughout the winter period. That includes asking businesses to maximise working from home for their employees where possible. Put simply, this means that if you and your employees were working from home at earlier stages in the pandemic, then we would ask that you do so again now. Working from home will be strongly encouraged for businesses until the middle of January 2022 at which time this position will reviewed.
The current protections will be kept under daily review at this stage.
The Scottish Government is looking at all options right now to help the country and our NHS get through the challenging winter period ahead. Nothing is off the table, including an extension and strengthening of the current COVID certification scheme to a much wider range of sectors and venues, and other measures that we could rapidly deploy if the need arises.
But the Scottish Government is also aware that after two years of tough, but necessary restrictions, and the social and economic harms they have caused, it is even more important to minimise further restrictions as much as possible. By working with businesses, sectors and health experts, the Scottish Government is determined to get that balance right.
Following on from public health advice, which is based on the evidence of risk regarding Omicron, the Scottish Government is asking individuals to think more carefully about unnecessary contacts, especially in crowded places, and advising Christmas work parties to be deferred. We know this is extremely difficult and will have a big impact on the hospitality industry so we are pressing the UK Government to provide the financial support businesses need. But we believe this is essential to help slow transmission.
Also crucial to ensuring further restrictions and disruption to businesses is minimised is regular testing and vaccinations. The Scottish Government is asking everyone to do a lateral flow test before mixing with people from other households – and on every occasion you intend doing so. It is important to remember that you can have this virus even if you have no symptoms.
Test & Protect is conducting enhanced contact tracing for all cases linked to the Omicron variant, but more generally, if someone has symptoms of COVID, or has been identified as a close contact, they should book a PCR test and self-isolate immediately until they get the result. If their result is negative, and they were not told they were a close contact of Omicron, they can end their isolation at that point if they are also doubled vaccinated. Otherwise, they must continue to isolate for the full ten day period. Those identified as a close contact of someone with a suspected case of Omicron will be required to self-isolate for ten days regardless of vaccination status. And from 11 December, all household contacts of any confirmed COVID case must also isolate for 10 days regardless of vaccination status and PCR test result.
We know this is tough for businesses dealing with staff isolations during the busy Christmas period, but strict compliance with the isolation rules will significantly help us break the chains of transmission and keep our economy moving. Scotland is currently the most vaccinated part of the UK but we can’t become complacent.
To assist those with staff, if businesses have 10 and more staff you can register for LFD kits here email@example.com
The Scottish Government is currently working with health officials to increase our vaccination capacity and improve the supply and availability of the vaccine. We are also working to increase demand for the vaccine, and booster doses, by encouraging even more people to take up the offer of the vaccine. You can play your part by encouraging your employees to get vaccinated.
If we follow these steps we give ourselves, your businesses, and our communities, the best opportunity of making Christmas and New Year as safe as possible – while maximising our ability to navigate this challenging festive period with as little disruption, for the shortest period of time, as possible.
To assist you, you may find the attached hyperlinks helpful –Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: First Minister’s speech – 10 December 2021 – gov.scot (www.gov.scot)
We would appreciate your support in promoting these messages throughout our islands to protect our communities.
If you have any queries please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Islands Policy Officer (TRS)
Rural & Islands Communities Team
Directorate for Agriculture and Rural Economy
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