Nicola Sturgeon has written to Boris Johnson calling for financial support to be made available as it was at the start of the pandemic.
The First Minister confirmed earlier there were 5951 cases reported in Scotland yesterday – 45.4% of them were indicative of the Omicron S-Gene dropout.
Ms Sturgeon has asked the Prime Minister to speak with her today to help protect businesses financially.
Here is her letter to Mr Johnson in full
I am writing to you this morning as a matter of extreme urgency.
I am profoundly concerned by the scale and immediacy of the threat posed by Omicron.
Regardless of what emerging evidence might tell us about the severity of impact of Omicron on individual health relative to other variants, the sheer number of people likely to be infected in the period ahead risks overwhelming the NHS and disabling the economy and other critical services. Indeed, these impacts are already starting to materialise and the risk is fast becoming a reality.
We agree that accelerating the pace of boosters is critical and we are all focused on doing that.
However, Omicron is running faster than even our accelerated rollout of boosters, and we know that immune protection from vaccination is not immediate, or complete.
As a result – and while neither of us wishes to be in this position – my view is that strong guidance to the public to restrict contacts at this time and in the run up to Christmas is essential.
While we have already issued such advice in Scotland, I believe there is a need to strengthen it further.
I also believe that restrictions on the operation of higher risk settings – while of course undesirable – may now be unavoidable.
However, as you know, all of this has had a massive impact on business. Even without further restrictions, if left unchecked, Omicron will deliver a significant economic shock that will see lack of staff and pressure on already stressed supply chains lead directly to business failure.
Frankly, if we do not get Omicron under control, we are sacrificing the economic recovery we all want to see. If the Treasury does not provide financial compensation and protection, this result becomes all but inevitable.
UK funding arrangements mean that the devolved administrations cannot establish at our own hand the financial packages on the scale needed – a point raised repeatedly by all three administrations in recent COBRA meetings.
This means that while each of us has a devolved duty to protect public health, we lack the financial means to support necessary action. Only the UK government can make funding available at the scale required.
I am therefore appealing directly to you – and urgently – to reestablish UK-wide schemes for furlough or, alternatively, to establish a mechanism whereby devolved administrations (subject of course to appropriate financial controls) can trigger such schemes, and to ensure we have access to the financial support needed to deploy these schemes.
Once again, the need to protect the NHS and save lives and livelihoods must be uppermost in our minds and drive our actions. A lack of necessary and sufficient financial support must not be a barrier to us doing so.
I would be grateful for an opportunity to discuss this directly with you. Given the urgency of the emergency we now face, I will make myself available any time this afternoon for a phone call.
I am coping this letter o Mark Drakeford, Paul Givan, Michelle O’Neill, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and Michael Gove.