The relaxation of coronavirus restrictions at Christmas should be used only to relieve social isolation and not to have a big party, Scotland’s national clinical director has said.

Professor Jason Leitch said the public health advice is to remain cautious, as he reminded Scots “the virus will not take Christmas off”.

Restrictions will be eased between December 23 and December 27 to allow three households to form a “bubble”, permitting them to meet indoors, outdoors or in a place of worship.

Prof Leitch said “everything was on the table” at discussions between the four UK nations on a united approach to Christmas, including lifting all restrictions for one day or keeping all the regulations in place – but they concluded it was right to offer people some flexibility.

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He told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme on Friday: “The four nations agreed that this is such a big deal, such a big holiday and celebration for the United Kingdom, that it was important to offer some kind of guidance so that people didn’t just do whatever they please and broke all the rules.

“We decided three households, five days and then we left the definition of that to the individual demographics.

“The public health advice is cautious, we want people to use it to relieve social isolation not to have a big Christmas party.

“Reserve the Christmas parties for after the vaccine, for after the pandemic.”

Scots are advised to have no more than eight people aged over 12 in any Christmas bubble they form, and these can only include one extended household.

Children under 12 will not be counted towards the total number of people permitted in any grouping.

Those living in shared flats are being urged not to split up from their current housemates, while people who might want to visit a loved one in hospital or a care home are advised to avoid entering any bubble arrangement.

Prof Leitch also said households in any bubble should remain two metres apart from each other and he warned sharing items such as serving spoons and cutlery could pose a risk of transmission, saying “big sharing buffets are out”.

Asked whether he thinks people can be trusted to use their common sense in following the guidance, he said: “I do and our results, our numbers, our infection rates would suggest that you can.”

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Meanwhile, Professor Calum Semple, a virologist at the University of Liverpool, told the same programme that meeting anyone indoors over Christmas will carry risks.

He said: “If we do pop round to granny or grandpa with the full family and everyone is giving hugs and kisses, there will be transmission events.

“We are so close to having a vaccine ready to give to our frail and elderly relatives, and those of us that have heart problems or high blood pressure, that to take unnecessary risks would just be a tragedy in so many cases.

“That doesn’t mean to say you can’t go round, wash your hands, do your best, but if you overdo it there’s going to be transmission events.”