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Omicron: Scottish and Welsh governments demand Boris Johnson increases number of self-isolation days for travellers

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The Scottish and Welsh government have urged Downing Street to bring in “tougher” travel rules to tackle the spread of the omicron variant of Covid-19 across the UK.

Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon said she and Welsh counterpart Mark Drakeford had written to Boris Johnson to demand a “tightening” of curbs so all arrivals in UK have to self-isolate for eight days.

The SNP leader and Welsh Labour leader have also requested that arrivals take a PCR test on day eight as well as day two. “It would be sensible … for these travel rules to be tightened further,” said Ms Sturgeon.

The first minister said the proposed changes would be “more effective” in identifying omicron cases, adding: “Anything less than a four nations approach will be ineffective – we hope a four nations approach can be agreed.”

In their joint letter to Downing Street, Ms Sturgeon and Mr Drakeford also called on Mr Johnson to immediately convene a Cobra meeting so talks could be held with representatives from the four nations on Monday.

Currently, passengers arriving in the UK from 4am on Tuesday will be required to take a PCR test by the end of their second day from entry and isolate until they receive a negative test. But Edinburgh and Cardiff now want all arrivals to self-isolate for eight days – and then do a second PCR test.

But Downing Street rejected the devolved administrations’ calls for the self-isolation period for travellers to be extended. Tightening the requirements would have a “detrimental effect” on the travel industry, a No 10 spokesperson said.

Mr Johnson’s official spokesman also said there was no Cobra meeting involving all four nations of the UK currently planned. “We obviously speak to our devolved administration counterparts very regularly,” he said.

After six new omicron variant cases were found in the Scotland, Ms Sturgeon said the country has not found any evidence to suggest that community transmission is either sustained or widespread.

Her administration said earlier on Monday that the new cases not linked to international travel, raising concerns that the new Covid variant is already spreading in the community.

“Let me stress there is no evidence yet that this is sustained, nor any evidence from the enhanced surveillance that it is widespread at this stage,” Ms Sturgeon said in her news conference.

Ms Sturgeon asked Scots to “significantly step up and increase compliance” with existing precautions – asking the public to take a lateral flow test before mixing with people from other households.

Taking a different tack from Mr Johnson’s ministers, she also urged Scots to work from home if possible, and urged employers in Scotland to “maximise” home working.

The SNP chief said it was unlikely but not impossible that cases of the omicron variant were linked to the recent Cop26 conference in Glasgow. “If you consider the timelines of Cop, it is not impossible – but it’s perhaps also not probable.”

The top scientists advising the UK government are set to unveil new guidance on extending the rollout of Covid booster shots to younger adults on Monday, junior health minister Edward Argar confirmed earlier today.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has been asked to consider boosters for under-40s, as well as reducing the gap between second doses and boosters. “We’d expect that within the coming hours,” said Mr Argar.

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