People in Scotland were hoping for a more normal Christmas this year - but then Omicron, a new Covid variant identified last week, complicated the matter.

Nicola Sturgeon addressed the new variant, booster jabs and the Covid situation in Scotland in her weekly update to MSPs today.

The First Minister confirmed this afternoon that nine cases of the Omicron variant in Scotland are linked to one private event on November 20.

The FM said the infected people are all self-isolating at home and have not required hospital treatment.

She said none of them had recent travel history to or known links with others who have travelled to countries in Southern Africa.

The update follows a health chief's advice to Brits today that less socialising would keep the variant at bay.

The UK Health Security Agency chief Dr Jenny Harries said on BBC Radio 4's Today programme that Brits should not "socialise when we don't particularly need to".

As the world grapples with Omicron, its implications and the state of Covid, people will be wondering what lies ahead.

So, how will the new variant affect Christmas? And could further restrictions 'cancel' Christmas in Scotland?

Prof Azeem Majeed, professor of primary care and public health at Imperial College London, spoke to The Mirror to answer your questions...

How worried should we be about the Omicron variant?

EDINBURGH, UNITED KINGDOM - NOVEMBER 30: First Minister Nicola Sturgeon delivers a Covid-19 update statement on the Omicron variant in the main chamber at the Scottish Parliament on November 30, 2021 in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Jane Barlow - Pool/Getty Images)
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon addressed MSPs about Covid and the Omicron variant today

When any new variant of the virus that causes Covid-19 is identified, we don't at first know how infectious it will be, whether it will cause a more serious illness than other variants and how well vaccines will work against it.

We therefore need to be cautious and take measures to control the spread of Omicron until this information becomes available. We shouldn't, however, become unduly anxious.

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I've heard that the variant causes more mild symptoms. Is that true and if so why are we worried?

Some early reports from South Africa suggest that Omicron may cause a milder illness than other variants.

However, we will need data from many more people infected with the Omicron variant, particularly older and clinically vulnerable people, before we can reach reliable conclusions about the severity of the illness it causes.

Why are they giving more booster jabs if the new variant can evade existing vaccines?

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 10: A member of the medical team prepares a Covid-19 vaccination booster jab at the Sir Ludwig Guttmann Health & Wellbeing Centre on November 10, 2021 in the Stratford area of London, England. Over 10 million people have now received their Covid-19 vaccine boosters in the UK, as the government has allowed people over 50 and the clinically vulnerable to receive third jabs. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
Prof Azeem Majeed said "three doses provides even better protection" against Covid

Two doses of current vaccines provide good protection – and three doses provides even better protection – against the other strains of coronavirus.

At present, we have no evidence the Omicron variant can evade existing vaccines.

We need to continue with the booster programme as this has been very effective in keeping down the number of infections that can result in hospital admission or death.

Does the new variant transmit any differently?

We don't yet have good data on whether Omicron can infect people more easily than other variants. It will gradually emerge in the coming weeks.

Does it mean existing Covid treatments like the new antiviral treatments won't work either?

This handout photo provided on November 16, 2021 courtesy of Pfizer shows the making of its experimental Covid-19 antiviral pills inside his laboratory in Freiburg, Germany. (Photo by Handout / Pfizer / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / Pfizer " - NO MARKETING - NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS (Photo by HANDOUT/Pfizer/AFP via Getty Images)
Pfizer is developing an antiviral pill

It is possible that some of the newer antiviral treatments won't work as well against Omicron as against other variants. However, this will need to be confirmed in research studies.

It's very likely, however, that antiviral treatments will still reduce the severity of illness caused by Omicron.

What don't we know about Omicron and when will we know?

We currently lack important information about Omicron – such as how infectious it is, whether it causes a more severe illness than other variants, how well vaccines protect against it and whether antiviral drugs will be helpful in reducing the severity of illness it causes. Research is already underway to answer all of these questions.

How likely is it to affect Christmas and how?

Graph of Covid cases in Scotland
Covid cases are on a downward trend in Scotland

There is currently have a high Covid-19 infection rate in the UK.

That said, Covid cases are on a downward trend in Scotland.

Vaccines are keeping down the number of people with a more severe illness, which in turn is keeping the number of hospital admissions and deaths low.

If we can get a high uptake of boosters, we should be able to have a more normal Christmas. But everyone should continue with infection control measures and not rely just on vaccination.

People who are not vaccinated at all (around 11 per cent of people aged 12 and over in the UK) should also come forward.

Will mask wearing really stop it?

Commuters wearing face masks ride a bus in Liverpool on November 30, 2021. - Britain will require all arriving passengers to isolate until they can show a negative PCR test against Covid-19 and is restoring a mandate to wear face masks in shops and public transport as part of its response to the new Omicron strain of Covid-19. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP) (Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
England reinstated a mask mandate today

Masks can reduce the spread of infection – particularly if a higher specification FFP2 mask is worn.

But they work best when combined with other infection control measures such as vaccination and home-working.

Will bringing forward boosters mean they're not as efficient?

Bringing forward the booster to three months instead of six after people's second vaccination won't reduce its effectiveness in preventing serious illness.

The booster dose substantially increases people's immunity and this can help stop the Omicron variant evading our current vaccines.

What will happen in schools?

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - MARCH 15: S1 to S3 pupils attend Rosshall Academy as all pupils in Scotland return for some class time ahead of the Easter Holidays on March 15, 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland. Scotland allowed its secondary school students to return to classrooms part-time today after having closed schools to most pupils due to concerns over the spread of Covid-19. Students are required to wear face masks on campus and lateral flow Covid-19 tests are offered twice per week. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
The First Minister said half of schools in Scotland have confirmed Covid Cases

Last week Nicola Sturgeon said half of schools in Scotland have confirmed cases of coronavirus and that live audiences are banned at school Christmas concerts.

Many schools in England have had large Covid-19 outbreaks since the new school year started.

It's important that 12 to 15 year old children are vaccinated and also get a second vaccination once the Government has approved this.

People working in schools also need to be fully vaccinated with three doses (four doses for people with weak immune systems).

Any child who is unwell with possible Covid-19 symptoms should get a PCR test and isolate until the result is back. Improving ventilation and air quality in schools is also essential to reduce the risk of infection.

Could there be more travel bans?

Travelers from South Africa are tested for the coronavirus (Covid-19) on arrival in a specially designed test street at Schiphol airport, on November 30, 2021. - Dutch health authorities said on November 30 that the new Covid-19 variant was already present in the Netherlands a week before a cluster of cases on two flights from South Africa. The Omicron cases were discovered on November 19 and 23 and authorities are checking whether they had links to southern Africa, and how far the new strain has spread. (Photo by Remko de Waal / ANP / AFP) / Netherlands OUT (Photo by REMKO DE WAAL/ANP/AFP via Getty Images)
Travellers from South Africa being tested at Schiphol Airport in the Netherlands

If the Omicron variant spreads further, then more countries may be placed on the red list.

This can happen at very short notice, leaving travellers with the option of either cutting short their trip or facing an expensive stay in a quarantine hotel. Everyone should consider this if they are planning an overseas trip.

Where will I need to wear a face mask?

In Scotland, face coverings continue to be mandatory in public spaces indoors.

England reinstated a mask mandate today, November 30, in shops, public transport, hairdressers, banks and post offices.

What are the new foreign travel rules?

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - JANUARY 18: Members of the public are seen at Edinburgh airport as travel corridors close until February 15, on January 18, 2021 in Edinburgh, Scotland. The UK has now closed its so-called "travel corridors" with countries from which arriving travelers were exempt from quarantine requirements. People flying into the UK will now be required to quarantine for 10 days unless they test negative for covid-19 after five days, or unless they qualify for a business-travel exemption. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Travellers arriving in the UK must now take a PCR test within 48 hours of arriving

From 4am today, all arrivals in the UK from anywhere in the world must take a paid-for PCR test within 48 hours of their arrival and isolate until the result comes back negative.

Previously, vaccinated travellers only had to take a lateral flow Day 2 test and did not have to isolate. The new rules apply even to the double-jabbed.

Arrivals who land without having booked a day two test in advance can be fined £1,000 on the spot.

Arrival from red list countries must go into hotel quarantine costing £2,285 a head for 11 nights. Those who breach isolation can be fined up to £10,000.

When will I have to self-isolate?

All close contacts of suspected Omicron cases will have to isolate for 10 days, regardless of their jab status.

People who test positive for Covid must still self-isolate for 10 days and unvaccinated or partially vaccinated close contacts of a Covid case must do the same, regardless of which variant they have.

What are the rules in schools?

Children in Scottish schools continue to wear face coverings in secondary schools

Scots secondary-aged pupils, and staff in primary and secondary schools still require face coverings in communal areas or when moving around the building.

Can Christmas parties and gatherings go ahead?

Merry Christmas! Happy family are having dinner at home. Celebration holiday and togetherness near tree. People are wearing facemasks.
There is no legal restriction on Christmas parties or gatherings

Yes, there is no legal restriction on Christmas parties.

Health Minister Edward Argar said people can "use their judgment" about whether to attend festive bashes this year.