Nicola Sturgeon urges home working amid rising Omicron numbers
Employers have been asked to ensure staff are working from home as the number of confirmed cases of the new variant of Covid-19 hits 99.
The First Minister said it was “vital” that all existing protections remained in place in light of rising cases of the Omicron variant, adding that increased compliance must be encouraged.
A further 28 cases of Omicron have been confirmed in Scotland in the last day, found in nine health board areas.
Nicola Sturgeon said the estimated doubling time for the variant “may be as short as two to three days”.
The Scottish government is now reviewing the situation on a daily basis and Sturgeon warned other measures may be necessary, including expanding the Covid passport scheme.
Making a direct plea to employers, she said: “If you had staff working from home at the start of the pandemic, please now enable them to do so again. We are asking you to do this from now until the middle of January, when we will review this again.”
Public Health Scotland is due to publish further data on confirmed and suspected cases of Omicron on Wednesday.
Overall Covid cases have also increase in the last week by 11 per cent, though the number of people in hospital with the virus has fallen.
There was a decrease in the number of over 60s testing positive, attributed to the booster programme, but cases increased across all other age groups.
Sturgeon said she was expecting a “continued and potentially rapid rise in cases in the days ahead and for Omicron to account for a rising share of overall cases”.
She warned that, given Omicron seemed to be considerable more transmissible than other variants, pressures on the health service are likely to increase even if the illness is no more severe.
Worldwide data also indicates the variant is more capable of re-infecting people who have already had Covid, suggesting it can evade natural immunity and potentially the vaccine.
But the First Minister also urged people to take up their vaccine and booster jabs.
She said: “Vaccines being slightly less effective is not the same – nowhere near it, in fact – as vaccines being ineffective. Being vaccinated will still give us much more protection from Omicron, especially from severe illness, than we will have if we are not vaccinated.”
She added anyone who was refusing a vaccine is “deeply irresponsible” and “selfish”.