NICOLA Sturgeon has warned that the Omicron variant will become Scotland’s dominant strain by tomorrow.
Speaking ahead of FMQs, the First Minister announced there was 5951 cases reported in Scotland yesterday – 45.4% of were indiciative of the Omicron S-Gene dropout.
Ms Sturgeon told Scots “for now, please stay at home much more than you normally would.”
She has also written to Boris Johnson, urging him to introduce more support schemes to the scale “that was available earlier in the pandemic”.
She said: “Because of Omicron’s much higher transmissibility, this will drive an even more rapid increase in cases.
“Omicron is spreading exceptionally fast, much faster than anything experienced in this pandemic.
“I am profoundly concerned by the scale and immediacy of the challenge Omicron poses.”
Ms Sturgeon told MSPs we must “act to slow the virus down”, adding “if we don’t, the consequences will be significant.”
She said: “Even if Omicron’s impact on individual health is milder than other variants – and we have no evidence of that yet – many will still become severely unwell and die, and the sheer number of people infected will present a massive challenge.
“In London, where transmission of Omicron is currently the highest in the UK, hospital admissions are now rising sharply.
“If we don’t act now, what we have feared all along but so far avoided – the overwhelming of the NHS – could happen.
“Let me be clear, this is not a choice between protecting health and protecting the economy.
“A surge in infections will cause – is already causing – staff absences that will also cripple the economy and critical services.”
The First Minister went on to underline the advice given on Tuesday – to reduce contact as much as possible, adding “for now, please stay at home much more than you normally would.
“Right now, the risk of getting Covid from interactions with others is high and rising.
“So ask yourself before doing anything you might have planned over the coming days – is it as safe as it needs to be, and is it vital enough to justify that risk.”
Stay protected for Christmas
The First Minister went on to discuss the “important” issue of spending time over Christmas with families and keeping schools open.
She said: “I suspect what is most important to most of us over the next couple of weeks is having time with our families at Christmas.
“Every interaction we have before then increases the risk of us getting Covid and losing that.
“More generally, I suspect what matters most to us – I know this is my view – is protecting children’s education.
“So by acting to reduce community transmission, we will also help keep schools open safely.
“Given what I am being advised about the risk Omicron poses to health and the economy, I would not be fulfilling my duty if I failed to give this advice.
“I would not be acting in good conscience.”
Ms Sturgeon told MSPs she was “acutely” aware and concerned about the “considerable impact” of her advice on businesses – but added that businesses would suffer if we did not act to slow the virus.
She said: “”The fact is – business now needs the type and scale of financial support that was available earlier in the pandemic.
“However, there are simply no mechanisms available to the devolved administrations to trigger the finance needed to support such schemes.
“We need the UK government to act – urgently and in the way some other countries are already doing.”
The First Minister raised the issue at a COBRA meeting yesterday chaired by Michael Gove, but added it needs the “urgent engagement of the Prime Minister and the Chancellor.”
She has since written to Boris Johnson appealing for additional support schemes to be put in place.
She added: “We must not sleepwalk into an emergency that, for both health and business, will be much greater as a result of inaction, than it will be if we act firmly and strongly now.
“I have therefore written to the Prime Minister this morning appealing to him to put the necessary support schemes in place. Such is the urgency, I have asked to speak to him directly later today.”