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Nicola Sturgeon considering new restrictions on football matches as Omicron covid cases surge

Nicola Sturgeon is considering new restrictions on football matches in a bid to halt the spread of Omicron.

The Daily Record understands fresh curbs are under discussion by the Scottish Government.

It comes after Boris Johnson delayed an urgent decision on whether to impose further measures to stop covid overrunning the NHS.

The Prime Minister put it off on the same day Scotland recorded the largest number of daily covid cases since September.

Sturgeon last week announced new measures relating to socialising and the economy, but she wants to go further.

Her Government is looking at extra restrictions, but Sturgeon wants clarity on funding and access to UK-funded schemes like furlough.

Ministers are believed to be eyeing events like football and concerts that are attended by large numbers of people.

Jason Leitch, Sturgeon’s national clinical director, has previously expressed unease about the impact of people travelling to football matches and the effect on case numbers.

Sturgeon will make a statement at Holyrood today on next steps, but no decision has been made yet.

The First Minister is one of a number of leaders who is urging the Prime Minister to go further.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan declared a major incident after a huge surge in Omicron cases and Johnson’s own scientists have warned “more stringent” measures may be required.

One potential option being discussed by experts and politicians is for a temporary circuit breaker after Christmas.

However, after a three hour Cabinet meeting yesterday, Johnson did not announce anything new.

“Unfortunately I must say to people that we will have to reserve the possibility of taking further action to protect the public, to protect public health, to protect our NHS,” he said.

“We won’t hesitate to take action.”

Asked about the prospect of new restrictions including on the hospitality sector, he said: “We are looking at all kinds of things to keep Omicron under control and we will rule nothing out.

“But at the moment what I think we want people to focus on is exercising caution so ventilation, masks in the appropriate places, all the usual stuff about washing hands, but remember how contagious Omicron really is.

The Prime Minister said: “I understand how tough it must be and nobody wanted things to go this way.

“Omicron has simply exploded so fast that we have seen people naturally deciding to make sure that they protect themselves and they avoid spreading the disease.”

He added: “As I said, the benefits of that course of action we may see in the next few days and weeks in the way we are able to contain the disease.

“It is important we act cautiously but it is also important we look after the hospitality industry, the theatres and other parts of our incredible entertainment industry which have suffered and are suffering.”

In an interview of her own, Sturgeon said she was not asking people to cancel their Christmas plans, but said: “My advice to people for the rest of this week, going into the Christmas weekend, is to cut your contacts with those in other households as much as possible – stay at home as much is feasible.

“We’re not asking people to cancel or change their plans but think about how you make these gathering safer.

“Keep them as small as your family circumstances allows you to do, make sure everyone coming to Christmas dinner has been tested in advance.”

Meanwhile, a teaching union has demanded a delay to the reopening of schools in Scotland after the Christmas break.

The Scottish Secondary Teachers Association (SSTA) claimed there are already staffing issues because of the requirement for entire households to self-isolate for 10 days if someone tests positive.

Schools will break for the planned Christmas holiday this week and pupils are due to return in the New Year.

Seamus Searson, general secretary of the SSTA teaching union, claimed he was already being told of schools that were not fully staffed due to the rising number of covid cases.

“At the moment, schools are struggling to keep open because of the number of teachers who are away because of the virus,” he told BBC Radio Scotland.

“We need to be reasonable and say that the virus will spread inside schools.

“There somehow seems to be a notion that the virus isn’t spread in school and teachers are immune.”

Scotland recorded 6,734 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours – the highest number of cases recorded in one day since September.

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