Starting from December 27th, the Scottish Government will force all nightclubs to close for at least three weeks in an attempt to curb the spread of the Omicron variant. John Swinney, the SNP Deputy First Minister has promised to give affected businesses financial support, and has recommended that these venues temporarily convert themselves into bars so they can adhere to social distancing rules to remain open. BBC News has more.
Swinney said nightclubs would have the option to stay open by effectively becoming a bar, but physical distancing and table service would need to be in place.
He said: “We consider that closure in regulations, combined with financial support, may reduce losses and help these businesses weather what we hope will be a short period until they are able to operate normally again.”
People in Scotland have not been told to cancel their Christmas plans, but have been urged to stay at home as much as possible throughout the rest of the festive period and to limit any gatherings to three households.
Swinney told MSPs that there had been a “rapid acceleration of cases driven by the Omicron variant” in recent weeks, with concerns that the faster-spreading strain could overwhelm health services despite early evidence that fewer people are needing hospital treatment than with other variants.
The Deputy First Minister said “we have to reduce dramatically the level of social interaction if we want to interrupt the circulation of Omicron”.
Nightclubs were only allowed to reopen in August, having been shut for longer than almost every other sector during the pandemic, and had been subject to vaccine certification rules since October.
The Scottish Conservatives said closing them again was “a further setback to a sector already on its knees”.
MSP Murdo Fraser said: “I understand that this is a fast-moving situation, but when announcing this enforced shutdown, John Swinney should have spelt out the exact details of the support package that will be given to nightclub businesses.
“The SNP Government has been given an extra £440 million in assistance from the U.K. Government. They need to get that money out the door and into the hands of beleaguered Scottish businesses immediately.”
National Clinical Director Jason Leitch said the decision to close nightclubs took account of typically younger crowds who may not be vaccinated.
Speaking to the BBC’s Lunchtime Live programme, he said: “The thing that really scares us about this [variant] is its attack rate. That’s why you can hear our tone and our fear rising a little.
“It’s one of the reasons nightclubs have unfortunately had to be closed down. That population tends to be slightly less protected not because they’re not actually coming forward in big numbers but because it’s taken us a bit longer to get to that age group. It’s an environment in which the virus enjoys.”
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