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First Minister gives an update on Omicron cases in Scotland

By David Porter

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon gave an unplanned press conference this morning following the reporting of six cases of the Omicron variant of the Covid-19 virus in Scotland.

She said: "We knew weeks ahead would pose an increased risk with the onset of winter and a new one has emerged in the form of the Omicron variant.

"There is still much that we and rest of the world do not know about it.

"What we do know is that the most important point to make is that there is still a huge amount that we do not know.

"The number of mutations in this variant raise the concern that it is more transmissible than the predominant delta variant - but more data is required and if it is more transmissible, by how much.

"Further work is also needed on its effects of vaccines and how reinfective it is - there is no info that symptoms are any different from other variants.

"There is no evidence so far that disease is more severe but weeks ahead will tells us about its implications.

"What we do know is that we should treat it seriously and take precautions.

"There is no doubt it presents the most challenging development in some time.

"We have stepped up surveillance to detect cases.

"As confirmed earlier today we have six cases in Scotland.

"The contact tracing is ongoing but at this stage, not all have recent ravel history to southern africa.

"There might already be some community transmission in Scotland but no evidence of it being widespread,

"But evidence of any community transmission means actions must be taken.

"We have already introduced some travel restrictions.

"We also need to consider what steps are needed here - some are already in place and more extensive in Scotland (than rest of UK)."

She said: "We are stepping up compliance - face coverings, washing hands, lateral flow tests and testing before mixing with other households.

"Work from home, but this may be a fast moving situation and this will be kept under review.

"Additional testing will be undertaken where cases have been identified.

"It is important to prevent new seeding from elsewhere so we have re-instated red list (10 countries) - must enter 10 day quarantine.

"Any where outside common travel area will take a two day test.

"Incubation for this virus is often more than two days, so we are taking move with Welsh government for tougher four nation approach - eight day isolation with tests on day two and day eight.

"This will be more effective to prevent imported cases.

"Anything less than four nations will be ineffective so we hope this can be reached.

"I have also called on the PM to hold a Cobra meeting for additional steps needed.

"Also conscious of effects on businesses if more measures needed - any further steps mean we are calling on the Treasury to support this.

She concluded; "In the face of new developments we have learned to prepare for the worse but hoping for something well short of this - we hope that our increased understanding will mean that less precautions are needed but we will always work in a precautionary manner.

"We are working even harder to step up vaccinations and we are expecting an update from the JCVI on who and when boosters can be given."

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