Another year, another Christmas with Covid-19.

This last year and a half, and likely some time to come, will live on in infamy.

The Omicron variant is scary, not because it’s more dangerous to the individual - if anything there’s evidence that for those who’ve had their booster vaccination, it’s actually less severe.

It’s scary because of the number of people being infected. Even a tiny percentage of those people needing hospitalised means many more patients in wards across the country, at a time when many more hospital staff are off ill themselves.

We must be as careful as possible and take every precaution to protect our family, friends and communities. Take a free lateral flow test if you have to go out in public, and if you can, register the result online so our public health authorities can gauge the prevalence of the virus in our communities.

Wear a mask indoors in public places, and if you’re unable to wear a mask, consider whether you have to go yourself or could someone else pick up your prescription or pop to the shops for you. Wash your hands regularly. If you get symptoms, book a PCR test or have one delivered to your home and follow the latest guidance at ready.scot/coronavirus.

Online ordering of free rapid lateral flow tests is working again - Google “free rapid lateral flow tests” to order. Should the system become overwhelmed again, remember you can pick up the free tests by visiting a pharmacy. You can find one near you at maps.test-and-trace.nhs.uk.

It’s become clear that the booster vaccine significantly reduces the chance of infection from the Omicron variant requiring hospital treatment. I would urge everyone to go online to nhsinform.scot or call 0800 030 8012 and book your booster as soon as possible.

The roll out of the booster programme has had its problems, but we must all persevere. If you go to your appointment and, for example, they are short staffed due to vaccinators getting sic, please book your appointment again. And please be kind to those working at vaccination centres. Staff and volunteers from the NHS, council and WD Leisure are working as hard as they can to deliver vaccinations. Your patience and understanding are appreciated and helps them to help us all.

Once again, I find myself thanking everyone for their efforts. To the staff and volunteers keeping our country running and to everyone who is following the public health guidance and doing everything they can to keep everyone safe, thank you. I hope we all have a chance to spend some quality time with family over Christmas. Have a safe and Merry Christmas in the company of people you love.