Scottish and Welsh governments call for longer self-isolation for international arrivals
The First Ministers of Scotland and Wales have urged the UK Government to bring in tougher rules on international travel in light of the new Omicron coronavirus variant.
Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford have written to the Prime Minister with a proposal for new arrivals to self-isolate for eight days, taking PCR tests on day two and day eight.
It goes further than current plans, to come into force from Tuesday, which will require everyone entering the UK to self-isolate for two days, taking a PCR test before exiting isolation on the second day.
Sturgeon argued it “would be sensible” to increase the period of self-isolation given the incubation period tends to be longer than two days.
The First Minister held an emergency press conference after six cases of the new variant were confirmed in Scotland.
None of the six patients have travelled recently to South Africa, where the variant was first discovered, which suggests there is community transmission.
But Sturgeon said there was no evidence yet on how widespread community transmission of Omicron is.
No new restrictions are to be put in place, with people instead being encouraged to "step up and increase compliance" with existing protections such as wearing facemasks, taking lateral flow tests before socialising and working from home.
Surveillance efforts have also been “stepped up”, while more testing is to be made available in communities where the variant has been found.
It is hoped this will prevent the need for fresh restrictions and the First Minister emphasised she was not asking people to cancel their Christmas plans.
Little is yet understood about the new variant, but Sturgeon said it was important to take a “precautionary” approach.
She added: “There is no doubt that this presents potentially the most challenging development in the course of the pandemic for quite some time.”
There have been no known deaths from the new variant globally and while evidence suggests it may be more transmissible, there is no evidence to suggest symptoms are more severe.
The First Minister said the overall Covid situation in Scotland remained stable but there were “real risks” to the stability from the new variant and winter.