VIRUS: Omicron Covid variant cases discovered in Scotland

Four cases are in the Lanarkshire area and two have been identified in the local health board area, the Government has said

                          First Minister Nicola Sturgeon all masked up in anticipation of a virus spike.

Six cases of the Covid-19 Omicron variant have been identified in Scotland, bringing the total the number of UK cases to nine.

Four cases are in the Lanarkshire area and two have been identified in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde area, the Scottish Government has announced.

Some of the cases have no link to travel from South Africa in a sign of community transmission and that the new strain may already be circulating.

Scottish Labour Health Spokesperson Jackie Baillie, pictured left,  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.

“Test and Protect has seen months of lowered expectations, with many attempts at contact tracing simply abandoned.  Over 800,000 Scots are entitled to a booster dose but haven’t received it.  Ventilation in too many schools is still substandard – with children told to just open a window.

“The Government has been right to remind everyone that we can all play our part in containing the spread by following rules and acting with caution.  But increased rates of vaccination, contact tracing and testing are the real route to safety in this latest phase of the pandemic.”

“What that tells us is that there must be a degree of community transmission of this particular strain of the virus in the absence of a direct travel connection for some of the cases in the southern African area.”

He added: “That obviously opens up further challenges for us in terms of interrupting the spread of this particular strain of the virus, and that will be the focus of the contact tracing operation that is underway already.”

In an official statement, the Government said Public Health Scotland and local health protection teams are supporting the individuals who tested positive.

It added that workers are using contact tracing to establish the origin of the virus and any individuals they have come into contact with in recent weeks.

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.

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“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.”

The six cases found in Scotland brings the total number of confirmed cases linked to the variant in the UK to nine.

On Saturday, the first two Omicron cases were discovered in Brentwood and Nottingham in individuals linked to travel to southern Africa.

Officials detected a third case on Sunday. The individual visited London but has since left the country.

Boris Johnson announced the return of some restrictions to mitigate the spread of Covid-19 and the emerging variant over the weekend.

Face coverings will now be mandatory on public transport and in shops, bars, cafes and other retail settings to curtail the virus, as well as in secondary schools from Monday.

Booster jabs will be offered to over 18s “imminently,” Health Secretary Sajid Javid said. The Government is waiting for the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) to give the go ahead.

Responding to the confirmation of two cases of the Omicron variant in England, Cabinet Secretary for Health Humza Yousaf, pictured left,  said:  “News that two cases of the Omicron variant have been confirmed in England is a stark reminder that we must not drop our guard.

“No cases have yet been detected in Scotland, but the fact this new variant is on our doorstep is clearly a worry and we should act as though it is already here.

“There is still much to learn about the Omicron variant. Questions remain about its severity, transmissibility and effect on treatments or vaccines and scientists are working at pace to provide additional information. Until more is known we must adopt the precautionary principle and do everything we can to minimise the risk of spreading infection.

“Following discussions today with Health Secretary Sajid Javid and the other devolved administrations – and in light of the well known practical reasons for preferring a UK wide approach to travel restrictions – we are aligning with the new border restrictions being introduced by the UK Government which will require fully vaccinated arrivals to take a PCR test within two days of arrival and to self-isolate until a negative result is received.

“These measures will be introduced as soon as possible and kept under constant review. However, we reserve the right to go further if necessary.

“We are also adopting the expanded red list of countries identified by the UK Government. This will also be kept under review.

“Throughout the pandemic people in Scotland have been amazing in doing everything possible to get cases down, to protect ourselves, each other and the NHS, and in taking up the offer of a vaccine.

“We must now redouble our efforts to follow the basic rules that have served us well so far in 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 and behave sensibly.

“If you have symptoms, self-isolate and take a test and 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 still un-vaccinated or are yet to get your second dose, please get vaccinated now. If you are over 40, you can book your booster jab for six months after your second vaccine dose – please do so. 

“As we head into winter we are facing an as yet unknown risk from this new variant. Let’s once again rise to the challenge and do everything we can to keep everyone safe.”

Meanwhile, Angola, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia have been added to the travel red list meaning all travellers returning to Scotland from these countries will be required to quarantine on arrival at a hotel for 10 days. Managed quarantine accommodation will been stood up for any arrivals from these countries from 4am tomorrow morning (28 November).

Managed quarantine was already in place from 4am today (27 November) for arrivals from six other countries  – South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Botswana – which had been added to the travel red list.

More information on international travel and quarantine

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