NICOLA Sturgeon has announced new restrictions in response to the rapid spread of the Omicron Covid variant.

The First Minister announced to MSPs in Holyrood that there would not be a change in advice for Christmas with just days until families gather on December 25.

She said that people should stay at home as much as possible before Christmas and keep celebrations as safe as possible by keeping gatherings small.

From December 27, people are being asked to limit contacts as much as they can and this advice will continue over the New Year period and into the first week in January. After that, the guidance will be reviewed.

From December 26, there will also be a limit on the number of people who can attend public events that will run for three weeks.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon update LIVE: Follow along with news on Omicron restrictions

For indoor standing events, the limit will be 100, for indoor seated events it will be 200, and for outdoor events, it will be 500 seated or standing.

Physical distancing of one metre will be required at events that go ahead within these limits.

The First Minister said: "This will of course make sports matches, including football, effectively spectator-free over this three week period.

"And it will also mean that large-scale Hogmanay celebrations - including that planned here in our capital city - will not proceed.

"I know how disappointing this will be for those looking forward to these events, and for the organisers of them."

The Scottish Government is also issuing guidance that non-professional indoor contact sports for adults should not take place during the three week period from December 26. This is because these activities, where physical distancing is not possible, also create a heightened risk of transmission.

Also from December 27, for a three week period, there will be further protections in hospitality settings.

Sturgeon said: "I can confirm that a requirement for table service only will be reintroduced for venues serving alcohol for consumption on the premises.

"And we will also ask indoor hospitality and leisure venues to ensure one-metre distance, not within, but between groups of people who are attending together.

"We will continue to advise people that if they are attending indoor hospitality or leisure venues - and remember our core advice remains to minimise this - there should be no more than three households represented in any group."

What are the new restrictions and when do they come into effect?

  • December 26 - Limit on number of people that can attend public events that will run for three weeks (including Boxing Day)
  • The limits on people are: indoor standing events - 100; indoor seated events - 200; outdoor seated and standing -500.
  • December 27 - People are being asked to limit contacts for a week. This guidance will be reviewed in the first week of January.
  • December 27 - For a three week period there will also be protections in hospitality and leisure settings including table service only for venues serving alcohol, indoor hospitality asked to ensure one-metre distancing between but not within groups attending together.
  • There is also advice to limit groups to no more than three households.

She said that the decisions were not a choice between protecting health and protecting the economy, adding: "If we don’t stem the spread of the virus, both health and the economy will suffer."

​READ MORE: Here are 6 Scottish Covid hotspots as Omicron cases rise

She said that there is no "compelling evidence" that Omicron is milder than previous strains and that Omicron cases increased by more than 50% in the past week - from more than 3500 a day to almost 5500 a day.

There were increases across all age groups but the biggest - of 161% - was in 20 to 24-year-olds.

The First Minister said that the precautionary steps will help people in Scotland navigate the period more safely.

What support will businesses have?

The National:

In terms of the impact on businesses, the First Minister said that she was "acutely aware" that the announcement has significant financial implications.

Last week, Sturgeon announced £100 million taken from existing budgets that will be used to support affected sectors. In this update, she said that eligibility and guidance for the hospitality sector will be published on the Scottish Government website today.

The UK Treasury also announced a figure of £440m extra money to be used for Covid support, but the First Minister said that much of this is not new money and has already been accounted for within the Scottish Budget and re-allocating it now would cause "significant shortfalls" elsewhere, including the health budget.

After more analysis of the extra money, Sturgeon said: "We estimate that the Treasury announcements do give us additional spending power now of £175m. I can confirm today that we will allocate all of this to business support.

"The Treasury has in the last hour or so just announced additional funding for business. Unfortunately, it would appear that this announcement generates no further funding for Scotland and that any consequentials are contained within previous announcements by the Treasury.

"I can, however, announce that the Scottish Government will allocate a further £100 million from elsewhere in our budget between now and the end of the financial year.

"This will involve difficult decisions but the impact of the current crisis on business is such that we consider it essential.

"Taken together, this adds up to a fund of £375m that will help support business for the unavoidable impacts of our decisions over the next 3 weeks. This is significantly more - proportionately - than the Chancellor has announced for the UK as a whole."

Will schools be able to open after the Christmas holidays?

The National: Students arrive at St Andrew's RC Secondary School in Glasgow as more pupils are returning to school in Scotland in the latest phase of lockdown easing. Picture date: Monday March 15, 2021. PA Photo. See PA story HEALTH Coronavirus Scotland. Photo

The First Minister said that re-opening schools after Christmas remains “a priority” for the Scottish Government.

Sturgeon said that children and young people have suffered “disproportionately” over the last two years and that it is important they are able to continue their education as normal in the new year.

She said that adults may have to make sacrifices to achieve this, but that people should be prepared to accept that if it helps ensure normality in schools.

She added: “I want schools to reopen on schedule and I want children to be back in school as normal.

“I think everybody has suffered through these last two years and children and young people have suffered disproportionately particularly given the very important stage of their of their lives and their education so my views on that are very clear.

“I think when teachers hear me say that they think perhaps I am dismissing concerns about their safety, I am not and I want to be very clear about that, we must make sure schools are safe environments for young people and their staff which is why the guidance published last week is so important.”

READ MORE: Scotland records nine Covid deaths and more than 5000 new cases

The new measures come in response to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 since it was first identified in the UK.

The latest daily figures show that nine more people have in Scotland after contracting Covid-19 and a further 5242 cases have also been recorded.

The new cases have a positivity rate of 14.9%.

A total of 515 people are in hospital with recently confirmed Covid-19, a reduction of one on the day before. Of those, 37 were in intensive care, also a reduction of one.