First minister says Covid variant is running faster than vaccine rollout and will soon be dominant in Scotland
Nicola Sturgeon has urged Scots to stay at home as she warned the new Omicron Covid
variant was “currently running faster than even the fastest rollout of vaccines
”, and likely to be the dominant variant in Scotland by Friday.
In a strongly worded statement ahead of first minister’s questions on Thursday, Scotland’s first minister told MSPs: “If we don’t act now, what we have feared all along but so far avoided, the overwhelming of the NHS, could happen.”
Appealing directly to the public, she went on: “Please reduce your contact with people from households other than your own as much as you possibly can. Please stay at home much more than you normally would and as much as is feasible.”
Speaking in the Holyrood parliament, she said 5,951 coronavirus
cases were reported on Wednesday, 45.4% of which were likely to be Omicron.
Sturgeon also called for immediate talks with Boris Johnson
to discuss putting in place a financial support package for businesses, as she dismissed an earlier Treasury announcement of advance funding for devolved administrations as “not enough”.
“We don’t have time to waste on vaccination, but we don’t have time to waste on putting in place the protective measures that will help slow this down,” she said.
“Lives again are at risk here, livelihoods are at risk and the NHS is at risk. Yes, the government’s got to speed up vaccination but all of us have to come together to do what is required to slow this down. And the UK government has to step up and provide the financial support that businesses need.”
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.”
Sturgeon said she wanted to “strongly underline” her advice on Tuesday that people should limit their indoor social mixing to no more than three households over the festive season, although family Christmas celebrations can still go ahead, adding that there was “no evidence” that Omicron was milder than other variants.
New regulations requiring shops and hospitality venues to enforce physical distancing and reduce crowding in bars and shops come into force on Friday.