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Nicola Sturgeon planning new covid restrictions due to rising concern about Omicron variant

Nicola Sturgeon is planning tougher covid restrictions after warning the current set of curbs will not be enough to contain Omicron.

The First Minister will hold a media briefing today after telling opposition leaders that the latest strain of the virus will become the dominant variant within days.

It comes after her public health agency urged the public to cancel their Christmas parties.

The body made the decision in the wake of concerns about NHS sickness levels after staff festive nights out.

The Scottish and UK governments have become increasingly downbeat about the highly infectious new strain.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced tougher restrictions earlier this week on vaccine passports, face masks and home working in a desperate bid to contain infection rates.

The Daily Record understands Sturgeon briefed opposition leaders on Omicron yesterday and the message was gloomy.

A source said the FM warned of “tough choices” and added: “She said that where we are now in terms of restrictions is not going to be enough.”

A second insider said the UK Government’s “Plan B”, which broadly resembles current restrictions in Scotland, is enough to contain the Delta variant but not Omicron.

The Scottish Government hopes covid funding will be made available by the UK Government if stringent restrictions on businesses become necessary.

Ministers are unsure whether any new curbs will have to be introduced before Christmas.

In a statement earlier this week, Sturgeon reported a tenfold increase in Omicron.

She said at the time: “Data on cases worldwide, including here at home, gives a reasonable degree of certainty at this stage that Omicron is more transmissible than the Delta variant, perhaps significantly so.

“Early – though again unconfirmed – data also suggests that Omicron is more capable of re-infecting people who have had the virus previously.

“In other words, it has some ability to evade natural immunity.

“And, of course, there is also a concern that it may evade to some extent the immunity conferred by vaccinations.”

The First Minister is expected to provide an update on the Government’s position at a press conference today.

Sturgeon’s briefing of the opposition parties comes after Public Health Scotland urged people to put off their Christmas parties over concerns about the strain.

Dr Nick Phin, its director of public health science and medical director, said: “To help minimise the further spread of Covid-19, and Omicron in particular, I would strongly urge people to defer their Christmas parties to another time.”

In his plea to Christmas revellers, Dr Phin added: “There is much that we still need to learn about Omicron but early evidence suggests that this new covid variant is much more transmissible.

“The impact of this transmissibility has been seen in recent weeks, with a number of Omicron outbreaks linked to parties.

“We still need to learn more about the severity of disease caused by Omicron and the effectiveness of vaccines but there are important things that we can do to help protect ourselves and our families now.

“I appreciate that everyone is keen to celebrate this festive season, particularly after the pressures of the last 20 months, but by postponing some plans we can all do our bit to protect ourselves and our loved ones.”

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