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Coronavirus / Tweak to self-isolation rules as first minister warns of ‘potential tsunami of Covid infection’

Nicola Sturgeon says the Omicron variant is ‘rising exponentially’ in Scotland and reiterates advice to postpone Christmas parties

First minister Nicola Sturgeon. Photo: Scottish Government

A CHANGE is being made self-isolation rules in Scotland as first minister Nicola Sturgeon warns of the impact of the new Omicron variant of Covid.

Sturgeon said that from tomorrow (Saturday) all household contacts of any confirmed case should isolate for 10 days regardless of vaccination status – and even if they have an initial negative PCR result.

Non-household contacts should continue to isolate pending PCR results. If negative, they can leave isolation if double vaccinated.

In a briefing on Friday Sturgeon spelled out in clear terms the concern over the new Omicron variant of Covid, which is expected to become the dominant strain because it is more transmissible.

She said it is “rising exponentially” in the country and warned that governments will be considering next steps carefully.

“We may be facing, indeed we may be starting to experience, a potential tsunami of infection,” Sturgeon said.

The first minister also reiterated public health advice to postpone Christmas parties.

She said as of 5pm on Thursday there were more than 100 confirmed cases of Omicron Covid in Scotland identified through genome sequencing.

But this is “just the tip of the iceberg” due to the way the variant is identified, Sturgeon said.

The first minister said it is not clear yet if Omicron causes more, or less, serious illness, and she reiterated the importance of getting vaccines and boosters.

She said “most of the cases will be mild” but if there are greater numbers of cases, this will likely result in more hospital admissions and place more strain on the NHS.

More cases will also impact on the economy through staff isolating, Sturgeon added.

Omicron is a variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus first identified in South Africa and it was designated a variant of concern by the World Health Organisation on 26 November.

An evidence paper published by the Scottish Government on Friday said: “Omicron is spreading at a rate that threatens a rapid and large surge of Covid-19 cases.

“Even if the resulting illness is relatively mild the number of cases could potentially cause great disruption to other services, in the economy and businesses, and in wider society, as more people would be absent from work due to illness and asked to isolate if they test positive, or as contacts of someone who has tested positive.

“It also means that the rapid rise in Omicron infections could put significant additional pressure on hospitals and other health and care services, close to the point in the winter when they are already likely to be at peak pressure.

“The evidence that Omicron is here and is spreading fast, and uncertainty over how it responds to vaccines and how much severe illness it causes, are grounds for concern about what might happen as it becomes the dominant strain of the virus.”