Nicola Sturgeon has strongly underlined her advice for Scots to limit contact with others as she gave an update on the rapidly spreading Omicron Covid variant.
The First Minister said the variant is likely to become the dominant strain of coronavirus in Scotland by tomorrow [Friday].
In an unscheduled update in the Scottish Parliament, Ms Sturgeon said the variant was “spreading faster than even the fastest rollout of vaccines”.
Over 50% of over 18s have received a booster vaccine, but the First Minister warned that the protection offered by this does not come immediately.
Ms Sturgeon said she had requested to speak to Prime Minister Boris Johnson today regarding financial support for business as she urged Scots to stay at home more than they normally would.
She told MSPs: “By tomorrow Omicron will be the dominant strain circulating in Scotland.
“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 also warned that even as the vaccine roll out speeds up, action must be taken to slow down the spread.
“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.”
She urged Scots to consider their actions and stay at home where they can.
“Please reduce your contact with people from households other than your own as much as you possibly can,” she said.
“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.”
The Scottish Government confirmed 5,951 new cases of coronavirus on Monday, including six new cases of Omicron in Fife.
No new cases of the variant were identified in Tayside, according to the latest data.
A total of 18 new deaths were confirmed by the Scottish Government, taking the death toll in Scotland to 9,764.