FIRST Minister Nicola Sturgeon has urged Scots to consider deferring their Christmas parties as cases of the Omicron variant continue to rise. 

Sturgeon made the plea during an emergency Covid-19 briefing on Friday afternoon in St Andrew's House in Edinburgh.

She said that Omicron poses a "significant risk" and that the reality of that has been shown through work Christmas parties and events becoming "superspreaders". 

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon briefing: Potential 'tsunami' of Omicron cases

It comes after Public Health Scotland issued a call for Christmas parties to be postponed on Thursday.

The agency said festive parties are being linked to outbreaks of the new coronavirus strand, which could be more transmissible than previous variants.

The First Minister said that she had "no alternative" other than to agree with the advice having seen the evidence which shows the risk Omicron poses.

She said: "Now this is not easy advice to give or to hear, but it is incumbent on public health experts to set out very clearly and frankly the risks we face and its incumbent on me and government to pay attention to that advice.

The National:

"There is a significant risk with Omicron and we are already seeing the reality of it with Christmas parties or events with lots of people becoming superspreaders.

"And if that happens lots of people get infected and these are work events, as well as the risk to individual health there is a risk to the ability of the workplace to operate as people have to isolate."

The First Minister added that she has "no alternative" but to agree with the advice, given the evidence that Omicron is spreading faster and set to become the new dominant variant.

READ MORE: Cobra: Emergency four-nations meeting to discuss Omicron variant response

She said: "We should all think a bit more carefully about unnecessary contacts, especially in crowded places just now, and it would be sensible to defer work Christmas parties. 

"Now I know this has a big impact on businesses which is why we are considering and pressing the UK Government on financial support. Once again we face a situation that frankly has no easy options."

Downing Street said it was up to individual businesses to decide whether Christmas parties should go ahead.

The National:

Scots have been urged to 'defer' Christmas work parties due to the rise in Omicron cases

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We do not think there is a need to cancel people coming together in hospitality venues like that.”

Asked whether it was therefore the wrong message for the Chancellor to cancel Christmas drinks, he said: “It’s down to individual businesses and indeed departments to make a decision on what’s right.

“We’re simply saying as a matter of fact there’s nothing in the guidance or the regulation that requires individuals to do so. We want people to keep using hospitality. We know that’s important, and we’re confident people will.”

READ MORE: Omicron Scotland: Where are cases and what could change?

It comes as the First Minister said that household contacts of postive Covid cases will have to self-isolate regardless of a negative test.

She said: “From tomorrow, our advice will be that all household contacts of any confirmed Covid case should isolate for 10 days, regardless of their vaccination status and even if they initially get a negative PCR test.

“I know this is not easy and we will obviously keep it under review, we will also ensure careful exemptions for critical services but we believe this to be essential at this moment to help slow transmission.”

Rules for close contacts not living in the same household as the positive case remain unchanged.

Scotland recorded 19 coronavirus-linked deaths and 5018 cases recorded in the past 24 hours.

Sturgeon told the coronavirus briefing in Edinburgh the Covid-19 death toll in Scotland under the daily measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – now stands at 9707.

The daily test positivity rate was 9.3%, up from 8.0% the previous day.

There were 573 people in hospital on Wednesday with recently confirmed Covid-19, down five on the day before, with 40 in intensive care, up one.