Mon. Jan 17th, 2022

ALL cases of the Omicron variant, which have so far been identified in Scotland, are linked to a single event, Nicola Sturgeon has told MSPs.

Sturgeon also said that none of the persons had “any recent travel history to or known connections with others who have traveled to the countries of southern Africa where the variant was originally discovered”.

But they tested all positive “on or around” on November 23 after attending a single private event, which the prime minister said was held on November 20.

READ MORE: Scotland records 10 Covid deaths and more than 2,500 new cases

She said the government “fully expects” that there will be more cases of the Omicron variant linked to that event, but the fact that they are all linked “reduces anxiety because it gives us more assurance that community transfer is not widespread “.

Sturgeon continued: “The lack of any known travel or overseas connection to these cases suggests that there is already a transfer of Omicron into the local community in Scotland. But the fact that all known cases so far are linked to this single event suggests , that societal transfer may still be limited. ”

Sturgeon said she hoped that as the world learned more about Omicron, “our level of concern will diminish rather than increase”.

She added: “But even if one hopes a lot for the best, it is wise at this point to consider and prepare for something less positive than that.

“The fact is that any variant that may be more transmissible than Delta – and that even to a limited extent can evade vaccine or natural immunity – must be taken seriously.

“That is why we have – and will continue to do so – respond in a way that is proportionate but also very cautious.”

The nine Omicron cases in Scotland have now been confirmed using “whole genome sequencing”, according to the Prime Minister.

However, a less accurate method is used to identify potential Omicron cases. This involved what is called the “S gene dropout”.

Sturgeon explained that Public Health Scotland has been looking at all positive PCR samples identified since November 1 to look for this dropout.

While dropout used to be an indicator of the Alpha variant, this virus strain has almost disappeared from Scotland. Now the vast majority, more than 99%, of the cases are of the Delta variant, which is not indicated by the same S-gene dropout.

As such, the prime minister said that if the dropout shows up recently, “then the suspicion is that it’s Omicron”.

The Prime Minister said she “considered it very likely that it is safe” that further cases of the variant would be identified in Scotland.

National: Nicola Sturgeon

The prime minister said overall infection levels have dropped, with a 15% reduction in new cases recorded over the past week.

To meet a potential need to reintroduce stricter restrictions, the prime minister said the government instead asked people to “significantly step up and increase compliance with existing protections”.

She continued: “It is my strong hope that, in addition to the temporary travel arrangements, no further restrictions will be required.

“But it will of course depend partly on what information emerges about Omicron in the coming days, but also and significantly on the fact that we all strictly adhere to all the existing safeguards to slow down transmission.”

The prime minister said she knew everyone – including herself – was “tired” of restrictions, but urged the Scots to help “stop not just this new variant of the virus, but the virus in general in its tracks and mitigate the risks across the winter” .

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