Two more cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant have been discovered in London, bringing the total number of people with the strain identified in the UK to 11.
This comes after authorities earlier today confirmed that six cases were found in Scotland in addition to three found in England in the weekend.
Recent London cases – one in Camden and the other in Wandsworth – are unrelated and unrelated to the previously confirmed cases – but both have “links to travel to southern Africa”.
The individuals and their households are now isolating themselves.
Of the Scotland cases, four were in the Lanarkshire area and two were identified in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde area.
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Some of the cases have no known travel history, suggesting that they could have been transferred within the country.
Scotland’s Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: ‘At this stage we know that not all of them have any recent travel history or known connections with others who have traveled to the countries of southern Africa where the variant was originally discovered.
“This suggests that there may already be some Community transmission of this variant in Scotland.”
She said there is as yet no evidence that this is persistent or widespread.
“There is no doubt that this is potentially the most challenging development during the pandemic for a while,” she said.
Meanwhile, a case in Brentwood, Essex, which was announced on Saturday, has been linked to Larchwood Primary School.
Specialist tests are made available to all students and school staff. One team will be held externally.
Scotland’s Health Minister Humza Yousaf said “it will be a worrying time” for those who have been identified with the variant.
Improved contact tracing is underway, which he said will help determine the origin of the virus in Scotland and identify other people who may have come in contact with those who tested positive.
Testing will also be increased in the areas where the variant has been discovered.
Sturgeon said there is concern that the new variant may be more transmissible than the dominant Delta variant and that it may affect the effectiveness of the vaccines, but said more data is needed.
There is currently no information to suggest that the symptoms of Omicron are different or that the disease is more severe, she said.
In response to the cases, the Scottish Government has asked employers to ensure that they maximize the potential of homework, which is already advised if possible. England completed its work-at-home guide in July.
Scotland is also adopting the UK Government’s new border restrictions, which will require fully vaccinated arrivals to take a PCR test within two days of arrival and isolate themselves until a negative result is received.
These measures will take effect from Tuesday at. 04.00.
The Scottish and Welsh governments are also urging Prime Minister Boris Johnson to do so further tighten UK travel restrictions by asking people entering the UK to isolate themselves for eight days, with the reintroduction of a PCR test on day eight after their arrival.
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Scotland has extended its red travel list in line with the Westminster government to include 10 African countries: South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Angola, Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia.
The first two cases in the UK – in Nottingham and Essex – were announced on Saturday, while a third Omicron case was discovered in the UK on Sunday by a person with travel connections to southern Africa who visited Westminster in London before leaving the country.
All close contacts of suspected Omicron cases should isolate themselves for 10 days, even if they have been vaccinated.
© Sky News 2021