Nicola Sturgeon insists she understands football fans’ frustration at being locked out of stadiums, but maintains that the restrictions are “inevitable” for now.
Outdoor sporting events in Scotland have been limited to 500 spectators until at least January 17 in an attempt to stem the rapidly spreading Omicron variant.
With top-class spectators severely limited, the Scottish Premiership winter break was moved forward in order to minimize the number of games that players will miss.
Some supporters have pointed to the “inconsistency” in effectively closing large outdoor venues such as Ibrox and Celtic Park when the public is still able to gather in large indoor areas such as shopping malls.
The prime minister provided an update on the pandemic on Wednesday and received questions from MSPs asking her to address the perceived anomaly.
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“Yes, I understand the importance of sports, football and indeed other spectator sports,” Sturgeon said.
“The benefits of it are seen in terms of mental health and a whole lot of other ways.
“No one, including me, takes the decisions we have made during this pandemic lightly.
“I have tried to explain the rationale for limiting large-scale incidents, it is about the incident’s super-spread given Omicron’s higher transmittability, but also the greater impact these incidents have on emergency services that are already extensive. There is also the risk involved. traveling to and from some of these events.
“It’s not easy, no one wants to be in this position, but these are the reasons why the Scottish Government – like many other governments – has made these decisions and hopefully they will not last very long.
“There’s always the possibility of pointing to inconsistency, I’m never sure when questions like that are asked of me, whether the argument is that we should not have restrictions on football, or we should also have restrictions on shopping malls.
“We want to limit and minimize the protection in place and therefore the restrictions on people’s lives. But I want to remind people of the bedrock, the core of the advice we are giving right now is to stay home as much as we can, certainly more than we usually at this time of year, would try to limit your contact with people in other households and keep the contacts where they take place as small as possible.
“It applies regardless of the setting.”
FM was keen to emphasize that compliance with current restrictions – especially with regard to vaccination – was the fastest way
“There’s no magic wand to get out of it. The closest we have is vaccination, and that’s why it’s so important.
“But while navigating this latest wave of infection given the speed of transmission, we all accept that some of these things are just unavoidable at the moment, and acting in accordance with the guidance we will get through these things faster than would otherwise be the case.
“But of course I understand that well. And as a citizen, I experience these limitations just like others.
“None of us want these to be in place any longer than necessary.”