EDINBURGH - Edinburgh’s Hogmanay events have been cancelled and football matches will be effectively spectator-free as part of tough new Covid rules in Scotland. All outdoor events will be limited to just 500 people to help slow the spread of Omicron.

Indoor events such as concerts will be limited to 200 people if they are seated, or 100 for standing. The new restrictions come into force on Boxing Day. They will be in place for at least three weeks - although there will be no limit to how many people can meet up at Christmas.

The Old Firm derby between Celtic and Rangers on 2 January will be among the football fixtures that will be affected by the new rules. Physical distancing of 1m will also need to be in place for all events that go ahead under the restrictions.

Pubs and other hospitality venues selling alcohol will need to reintroduce table service from 27 December. And indoor hospitality and leisure venues will be required to ensure there is a 1m distance between groups of people who are attending together. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “This will of course make sports matches, including football, effectively spectator-free over this three week period.

“And it will also mean that large-scale Hogmanay celebrations - including that planned here in our capital city - will not proceed”.

All of the major Hogmanay events in Edinburgh including the street party, the torchlit precession and the midnight firework display have now been cancelled.

New Year celebrations in other towns and cities, including Aberdeen, have also been cancelled.

Wales had already announced plans for sporting events to be held without crowds from Boxing Day, and London has cancelled its New Year›s Eve event in Trafalgar Square.

Many concerts, theatre productions and other events had already been cancelled voluntarily in Scotland.

Omicron is now thought to account for 62.9% of all Covid cases in Scotland, with the first minister saying there was “still no compelling evidence that Omicron is intrinsically milder than previous strains”.

Ms Sturgeon said the much higher transmissibility of the new variant meant that large gatherings “have the potential to become very rapid super-spreader events, putting large numbers at risk of getting infected very quickly”.

She added: “Limiting these events helps reduce the risk of widespread transmission. It also cuts down the transmission risks associated with travel to and from such events

“And these large events put an additional burden on emergency services, especially the police and ambulance services.

“At a time when these services are already under severe pressure and also dealing with high staff absences, limiting large scale events will help them focus on delivering essential services to the public.”