The First Minister has echoed Public Health Scotland’s advice to postpone Christmas parties, particularly work events. She confirmed the news in a Covid briefing today where she outlined the current situation with Omicron which currently stands at 110 confirmed cases, Although she said that it was most likely that the number was far higher and warned there was a real risk that there would be a “tsunami of infections.”
Regarding Christmas parties she said, “There is a significant risk with Omicron and we are already seeing the reality of seeing Christmas parties events becoming super spreaders and if these are work events there is a risk to individual health but there is also a risk to the ability of the workplace to operate.
“We are focussing at the moment on work events. These result in a rapid spread of infection which presents a risk to individual health and workplaces too. The bigger the event the more the risk is real – consider deferring work Christmas events, if they are small events, make sure you are testing before you go.”
The First Minister said, “This is the fastest expediential growth we have seen so far in this pandemic and we need to be as fast as the variant in adapting our advice.” She also said that she could not rule out further measures.”
She also said that from tomorrow, “All household contacts of any confirmed Covid case should isolate for 10 days -regardless of vaccination status, even if they initially get a negative PCR test. Non-house holds contact should continue to isolate pending a PCR result.”
The Scottish Government have asked the Treasury for funding arrangements and suggested that although there would be a financial and economic impact of acting now, there would also be more damaging effect on the economy if they did not act as it would be “less managed and therefore more damaging.”
Stephen Gow of The Chester Hotel in Aberdeen, which has The Granite Suite ballroom with capacity of 300 for events and Christmas parties; the IX restaurant with 80 covers; The Gallery Bar with a capacity for food and drink of 70, and a marquee with 70 seats, says,
“It’s catastrophic for a sector which has already faced so much hardship since March 2020.”
“The mixed messages during the week, the announcement by Public Health Scotland yesterdays and today’s First Minister statement are effectively a closure of the hospitality sector – once again – at their busiest time of the year without any financial support. Statements like ‘it would be sensible to defer Christmas parties’ essentially mean ‘don’t’ but do not amount to government regulation meaning, there’s no financial support for businesses.
“When I left work last night, one of our Christmas party events was due to have 263 guests. By 10am today that number had dropped to 18. It could drop further. We’ve had more than 900 cancellations over a 48-hour period. And we expect more.”
“It’s not the fault of the guests that they’ve had to cancel. But equally, it’s not the fault of the hotels, bars and restaurants. Yet, customers are asking, and in some cases demanding, that their deposits and payments be refunded.
“The hospitality sector plans well in advance for Christmas and especially so this year when there have been messages about turkey and champagne shortages. We’ve had 3000 portions of turkey on order for months; and that order is just for our banqueting events, not for our restaurant bookings. We have a fully stocked bar with kegs of beer which all have sell-by dates. Our regular band is paid for their residency at our party nights. Our staff are all rotated for this weekend. The costs of these cancellations are considerable and for some businesses, they will be overwhelming.
“These cancellations affect the entire hospitality supply chain and will impact seriously on staff who will no longer have their hours at what is usually our busiest time of the year. Perversely, we took more bookings this year than we expected. People seemed determined to celebrate Christmas 2021 in the way they were prevented from doing last year. Many businesses have faced challenges since the pandemic start and a Christmas party was their way of thanking their staff for their efforts and fortitude. This is not just about work nights out either. Groups of friends were getting together for private dining events.”