Additional measures are being applied to the Edinburgh Christmas market in response to a new wave of Covid-19 cases.
Fears over the spread of the virus in the bustling city center attraction intensified this week amid rising infections and news that the highly transmissible Omicron is now the dominant strain of coronavirus in Scotland.
At the moment, there are no restrictions on crowds or outdoor gatherings, but the government has urged people to limit their social interactions and stay at home as much as possible.
Scenes of large crowds crowded into the popular Princes Street Market have appeared on social media in recent days, with many commenting on the lack of social distancing and the wearing of masks.
One of them said he saw the market “absolutely crowded”.
Another wrote: “Thousands of people went to the crushed Christmas market. It should never have been allowed to continue.”
A spokesperson for Underbelly, which the council pays to run Edinburgh’s Christmas attractions, said testing and traceability was “ongoing” but not mandatory for those in attendance.
In addition, wearing a mask is compulsory only for users of the toilets and for members of staff serving the public, unless there is an exemption.
Dona Milne, director of public health at NHS Lothian, said: “The spread of the omicron variant means we need the public to be extra careful when they are on the move during the holiday season. Although the virus does not spread as easily outdoors, it is still transmissible. “
On Friday, December 17, Underbelly confirmed the implementation of additional measures in response to the increase in cases.
Visitors will now be advised to enter the market through the Waverley Bridge gate at Market Street only, while all other gates will become exits.
In addition, all participants are advised to “keep a safe distance from other groups when moving in the markets”.
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A spokesperson for Underbelly added: “Edinburgh Christmas is running at reduced capacity this year, which allows people to have extra space when they move around the site.
“All visitors will continue to be asked to register their details before entering the site by scanning a QR code in the queue system and at the entrances.
“There is signage throughout the site and a queue system that encourages visitors to wear a mask and keep their distance from other groups.
Visitors are always advised to wear a face covering when in high traffic outdoor areas and to pass a side flow test before mingling with other households in accordance with Scottish Government guidelines. “
They added that the Ferris wheel will continue to only allow individual groups to ride in each pod.
This week, it was confirmed that attendees of the Hogmanay celebrations in Edinburgh, also hosted by the council-funded Underbelly, will need proof of a negative Covid test to enter.