Six cases of Covid-19 Omicron variant detected in Scotland
Six cases of the Omicron variant have been in identified in Scotland, the Scottish Government has confirmed.
Four cases are in the Lanarkshire area and two have been identified in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde area.
The new variant, which was first detected in South Africa, is thought to be more transmissible than previous variants. The number of mutations has scientists worried that it could evade vaccine protection.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is due to hold a briefing later with Chief Medical Officer Gregor Smith.
Health secretary Humza Yousaf said: “This will be a worrying time for the six people now identified as having the new variant. All will receive expert help and support and Public Health Scotland will undertake enhanced contact tracing in all cases. This will help establish the origin of the virus and any further individuals they have come into contact with in recent weeks.
“There is still much to learn about the Omicron variant. Questions remain about its severity, transmissibility and response to treatments or vaccines and scientists are working at pace to provide additional information. Until more is known we must be cautious and do everything we can to minimise the risk of spreading infection."
Yousaf said the Scottish Government was aligning with new border restrictions introduced by the UK Government which require all fully vaccinated arrivals into the country to take a PCR test within two days, but he said Scotland could "go further in necessary".
At the weekend, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that masks would once again become mandatory in some indoor settings in England amid concern over Omicron.
Scientists say it will be a couple of weeks before we fully understand how different Omicron is to previous variants, although it has a number of mutations which have not been seen before. It has led to concerns the new variant to evade some of the protection offered by vaccination.
Yousaf added: “We must now redouble our efforts to follow the basic rules that have served us well throughout the pandemic – wear a face covering on public transport and in all indoor settings for food and retail; open windows especially if you have people visiting at home; keep washing your hands regularly and thoroughly. Work from home where possible, take regular lateral flow tests – especially before mixing with others outside your household.
“If you have symptoms, self-isolate and take a test and if contacted by Test and Protect or public health teams please co-operate and follow their advice. All close contacts of suspected Omicron cases will be advised to self-isolate for 10 days, regardless of their vaccination status.
“And of course, if you are eligible for your booster, or are still to have any dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, please get vaccinated now.”
Commenting on the new cases, Scottish Labour health spokesperson Jackie Baillie said: “The confirmation of cases of this new variant in Scotland is a wake-up call.
“We do not yet know the true scale of the risk presented by the Omicron variant, but it must prompt action from the Scottish Government.”