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Coronavirus latest: Nine Omicron cases linked to single event, Sturgeon says

© Jane Barlow / PA WireFirst minister Nicola Sturgeon
First minister Nicola Sturgeon

Nine cases of the Omicron variant of coronavirus identified so far in Scotland are linked to a single event, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

Updating MSPs on Covid-19 in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday, the first minister said contact tracing work had been carried out and more cases were expected to emerge in coming days.

She said this suggested there was community transmission of Omicron in Scotland, though it may still be “limited”.

Four of the cases are in the Greater Glasgow area, with five in Lanarkshire.

Sturgeon said : “None of these individuals – as far as we know – has recent travel history to or known links with others who have travelled to the countries in southern Africa where the variant was originally detected.

“However, while the contact tracing exercise is still ongoing, health protection teams have established that all nine cases are linked.

“They all trace back to a single private event on 20 November.

“Indeed, we fully expect that there will be more cases identified over the coming days that are also linked to this event.”

Omicron hopes

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

She added: “However, while hoping very much for the best, it is prudent at this stage to contemplate and prepare for something less positive than that.

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

“That is why we have – and will continue for now – to respond in a way that is proportionate but also highly precautionary.”

The first minister said overall infection levels have been falling, with a reduction of 15% in new cases recorded over the last week.

Sturgeon also said any possible links between the new cases of the Omicron variant and the Cop26 summit are being investigated, but the timing means it is “improbable”.

She told MSPs: “Given the nature and scale of Cop26, the surveillance work that Public Health Scotland is doing is also looking at any potential links to it.

“At this stage, however, there is no evidence whatsoever of any such link, and, while it is not impossible that one will emerge, I think the timelines involved make it improbable.”

She said that rather than bring in new public health protections, she was asking the public to “significantly step up and increase compliance with existing protections”.

The first minister also reiterated her call for the rules on international travel to be tightened on a four-nation basis.

The numbers

Scotland has recorded 10 coronavirus-linked deaths and 2,569 new cases in the past 24 hours, according to the latest data.

It means the death toll under this daily measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – is 9,572.

The daily test positivity rate was 11.5% according to data published by the Scottish Government on Tuesday, up from 10.7% the previous day.

There were 706 people in hospital with recently confirmed Covid-19 as of Monday night and, of these, 54 people were in intensive care.

So far, 4,346,736 people have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccination, 3,949,736 have had a second, and 1,687,792 have been given a third dose or booster.