First Minister of Scotland Nicole Sturgeon has said people should act as if the new Covid variant Omicron is “already present” in Scotland after two cases were detected yesterday in England.
Urging Scots to “pick up” their compliance, Mrs Sturgeon said that she expects to see cases of the Omicron variant recorded in Scotland shortly.
The UK Health Security Agency confirmed cases yesterday in Chelmsford, Essex, and in Nottingham. The cases have been linked to travel in southern Africa and they and their households are self-isolating while more tests and contact tracing take place.
First reported to the World Health Organization from South Africa on Wednesday, preliminary evidence suggests that the Omicron variant increases the chances of reinfection, although a fuller understanding of its risks could take several weeks.
From 04:00 on Tuesday people travelling into the UK from any destination will have to take a PCR test by the end of the second day after arrival, and self-isolate until they get a negative result. A reintroduction of mask-wearing for public transport and shops was also announced in England; in Scotland mask-wearing has remained compulsory since other restrictions were dropped over the summer.
Ms Sturgeon told BBC One’s “The Andrew Marr Show” that the new travel rules were being introduced “as quickly as possible”.
She refused to rule out introducing further restrictions on travel, including a closure of the England-Scotland border. “I think we may need to go further in restricting travel in the days to come. I hope I’m wrong, but we must keep our minds open to that”. Sturgeon added that the Scottish government has “previously advised against travel across the England-Scotland border” and that “we need to be open-minded to doing anything” to keep people safe.
The First Minister said she will keep “everything under review” — including introducing stricter measures on travel than other parts of the UK and strengthening advice already in place. But she underlined that any divergence in England-Scotland Covid response should not be interpreted as “political competition”.
Echoing the message of UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid this morning, Sturgeon said, “My message right now is that if you’re eligible to be vaccinated and you’re not already, then please do get vaccinated”.