Omicron in Scotland: Sturgeon prompts UK government to increase travel restrictions

In a media briefing on Monday, Sturgeon said Nicola Sturgeon and Welsh First Minister Mark Druckford wrote a joint letter to Boris Johnson.

The two leaders called on all travelers coming from abroad to self-isolate for eight days, and have a PCR test on the second and eighth day of their arrival.

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They also requested the Prime Minister to convene an urgent COBRA meeting to discuss the UK’s response.

Nicola Sturgeon gave an update in an unscheduled briefing on Monday

Currently, passengers arriving in the UK from 4am on Tuesday will be required to take a PCR test by the end of their second day of entry and isolation in order to receive a negative test, while ten South African countries have been added to the Travel Red List.

Six cases of the new variant have been identified so far in Scotland. Four are in the Lanarkshire area and two are in Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

Sturgeon said anything other than a four-nation approach to international travel would be “ineffective”.

“As we know from earlier phases of the pandemic, with so many people traveling to Scotland and actually to Wales via airports in England, anything less than a four-country approach to requirements like this would be ineffective, so we hope a four-country agreement can,” she said.

The first minister refused to specify what action the Scottish government would take if Boris Johnson did not agree to tighten travel restrictions.

“We will continue to wait and see the response to that and hopefully have some positive discussions,” she said.

The prime minister did not rule out more domestic restrictions or an expansion of the vaccine passport system, but said the situation was “moving fast” and the response would remain under review.

She said there was still a great deal unknown about the Omicron variant, and contact tracing and monitoring in Scotland is ongoing.

“What we know at this stage confirms, in my opinion, that we must take it seriously and that we must continue to operate on a precautionary basis at this stage,” she said.

“While we all hope that an emerging understanding of it will reduce rather than increase our level of anxiety, there is no doubt that this has been the most challenging development in the course of the pandemic for some time.”

Public Health Scotland and local health protection teams are working together and “improved” contact tracing is being carried out to determine the origin of the virus and which individuals people have come into contact with in recent weeks.

All close contacts of suspected Omicron cases will be advised to self-isolate for 10 days, regardless of their vaccination status.

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Omicron in Scotland: How bad is the Omicron variant?

The first two cases in the UK – in Nottingham and Essex – were announced on Saturday, while the third Omicron case was detected in the UK on Sunday of a person with travel links to South Africa.

Britain will hold an urgent meeting of the health ministers of the Group of Seven on Monday to discuss the variant, which was first discovered in South Africa, amid fears that it may spread quickly and avoid the particles present.

Responding to news of the new variant in Scotland, Professor Jim Naismith, Director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute and Professor of Synthetic Biology at the University of Oxford, said: “Six cases were discovered in Scotland, some of which had not traveled to South Africa or elsewhere. It is expected that the countries on the ‘red’ list will be.

“Travel is really all or nothing in terms of the variables of Covid-19. The rapidly spreading variables will move faster than monitoring systems.

“Stopping travel to one country, and allowing it from others, has not been particularly effective because the virus is able to take multiple transit routes.

“Differentiating similarly who is allowed to travel to a country on the basis of nationality has not worked well, because the virus does not care about passports.

“The local division in the UK fails for the same reason and has little scientific basis.

“It seems likely that the omicron variant of the virus has a foothold here.”

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