THE coronavirus rules will not be relaxed over Hogmanay, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

Though she has confirmed that there will be some leeway over Christmas. 

The First Minister said discussions with the other three nations were still ongoing over the exact details, but that it was likely that "households may be able to form slightly larger bubbles with each other for a short period".

Reports suggested that any change to the guidance could mean three households being able to come together for up to five days.

READ MORE: Covid in Scotland: Nicola Sturgeon announces 949 new cases

The SNP leader urged caution, recommending Scots ask themselves if they really needed to visit friends or relatives or if they could delay until the spring, after the vaccine has been rolled out. 

Speaking at the Scottish Government’s daily coronavirus briefing, she said: “This is a particularly different balance to strike, and if my email inbox is anything to go by, public opinion on this is quite mixed as you perhaps would expect it to be.

“There is an obvious desire to see loved ones at Christmas, I think we all feel that very strongly, but also a lot of anxiety about the potential risks associated with that, particularly we are at a time when we are starting to see, perhaps, the end of this pandemic loom on horizon.

“So we are trying as hard as we can to reach a sensible balance. It is possible, likely in fact that some households may be able to form slightly larger bubbles with each other for a short period over Christmas, and we are considering this because we recognise that isolation and loneliness can hit people particularly hard over the Christmas period.”

The First Minister warned that any relaxation of the restrictions would carry additional risk. 

“I’m afraid the virus won’t take Christmas off. And so if we provide it with opportunities to spread from household to household, it is likely to take those.

“That would be a worry at any time, but perhaps more so when we could be within weeks of being able to vaccinate a significant proportion of the population.”

She said: “It’s maybe worth asking yourself now, do we need to visit family or friends over Christmas? Because if we feel we don’t have to, then delaying a visit until the spring, especially if that visit involves travel, might be the better option.”

The First Minister said the relaxing of restrictions was partly because there was a “recognition” in the four governments that “there just might be more of a possibility that some people will not set out to blatantly flout the rules, but will try to push the boundaries of them”.

She said it was trying to “build in a bit of flexibility for everybody” to stop that being uncontrolled. 

“Maybe that's the wrong thing to do, I don't know. Maybe it would be  better just to say the rules are the rules are the rules, and, stick with them and accept the fact that some people might not.

“But we've come at this from a sense of trying to understand the pressures, additional pressures, that people are under over Christmas and find a sensible way through that, and that's what we're trying to do right now.

On Hogmanay, the First Minister said she did not expect “that we will be announcing any particular relaxations over the New Year period.”

“And why not? because we can't do everything, and the Christmas thing is hard enough. Why Christmas and not New Year? Well, maybe, because Christmas is a more important time for kids.

“I think for most of us, even if we value New Year, Christmas is still the time when families are more likely to want to not have somebody on their own.” 

Asked if she would be visiting her own family, the First Minister said she didn’t know. 

“If there is an ability to see limited numbers of people will I take any opportunity over Christmas to see my mum and dad? I don't know, I will think about that carefully from their point of view more than from mine. 

“The last time I saw my mum and dad was on my 50th birthday on the 19th of July. I haven't seen them since I miss them hugely as many people watching will miss loved ones as well, but we have to be sensible about this, we really have to be sensible about this and that applies to me, just as it applies to everybody else.”

Earlier, Linda Bauld, professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh, told BBC Good Morning Scotland, that risks would be attached to any relaxation of the rules. 

READ MORECovid in Scotland: Nicola Sturgeon considering plans to relax rules at Christmas

She said: "Many of us would wish to see our older relatives at Christmas, and we know that mortality from Covid-19 is significantly higher for older people – I think around 86% of deaths in hospital occurred in people over the age of 65 – so this is concerning.

"At the moment we still have levels of infection in the community across the UK that are higher than we would wish.

"If we come together with people from different households at the time of year when the windows are closed, the people you care about, physical distancing is difficult, it is an opportunity for the virus to spread, so this is really really tough."