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Covid Scotland: Humza Yousaf warns more restrictions ‘inevitable’ as Omicron spreads

Politicians are warning about the omicron variant

Further Coronavirus restrictions are “inevitable”, Health Secretary Humza Yousaf has warned.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is to address the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday following last week’s announcement of the “tsunami” of expected cases of the Omicron variant.

Any changes in measures would be made and announced then, but Mr Yousaf concedes additional protective measures are “inevitable” and believes it would be better to take preventative action.

On talk of schools closing early, he says the Scottish Government will do “everything it possibly can” to stop them from shutdown but that all options are being considered.

Health secretary Humza Yousaf

Being able to get booster vaccines into the arms of everyone eligible by the New Year will be “extremely challenging” he added.

The Scottish Government will be asking for more help from the military to scale up the vaccination programme, it has been confirmed.

Mr Yousaf told BBC Scotland: “I think it’s inevitable that we will announce additional protective measures.”

It is the strongest indication that additional measures will be introduced and follows comments by Scotland’s Deputy First Minister John Swinney that ministers were going to consider reimposing more restrictions, over the weekend.

Booster rollout

Speaking about the impact on the health service of speeding up the vaccine booster rollout, Mr Yousaf said: “We’re going to have to strain every sinew that we possibly can in order to ensure we meet (the target).

“That includes potentially having to move NHS staff away from other core duties to do this.”

He added that there needs to be a “huge increase” in the number of daily doses being administered from the current level of approximately 40,000 to an estimated 70,000 per day.

Mr Yousaf also said the Scottish Government wanted “as much support from the Treasury” as possible after warning “already there has been an impact on businesses through some of the advice that has been issued”.

Public Health Scotland last week urged people to postpone Christmas parties because of the increase in Omicron cases across the country, although hospitality industry groups said the advice was a “heavy, heavy blow”.

Speed ‘essential’

The Scottish Conservatives have said the Health Secretary and Government should “pull out all the stops” and speed-up the inoculation roll-out by reopening mass injection centres.

Leader Douglas Ross said: “For more than a month, the Scottish Conservatives have been calling for the reopening of mass vaccination centres to speed up the vaccine booster rollout.

“The pace of the rollout across Scotland and the UK is already quick – but it’s essential that we pull out all the stops to deliver even more jags.

Leader of the Scottish Conservatives Douglas Ross

“Mass vaccination centres were game-changing in delivering the first round of Covid jags. The number of jags getting into people’s arms went through the roof once those venues were opened.

“The rapid rollout of mass vaccine centres and more drop-in clinics is now a necessity. It is mission critical that the booster jag programme accelerates to win the race between the vaccine and the virus.

“We urge the Scottish Government to do whatever it takes to increase the pace of the booster jag rollout because that is likely to be the crucial difference between avoiding or introducing stricter restrictions.

“In Tuesday’s Covid update, we need Nicola Sturgeon to launch a full-scale mobilisation of every available member of staff and volunteer to accelerate the booster jag scheme urgently.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP called for more support for businesses in the First Minister’s announcement.

He said: “After pestering the Health Secretary for months we finally have an ambitious target for ramping up booster vaccines but we also need to see frontline NHS staff given the additional resources they need, guarantees of financial protections for small businesses, particularly in hospitality, and measures to ensure that everyone who needs it can access mental health support during these difficult times.

“Right now businesses are in the worst of all possible worlds. Cancellations are flooding in but they can’t claim any financial support. They need information now so that they can plan shifts, make orders and decide whether to open or close.”

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