The Omicron variant is coming, warns Leitch, as Christmas caution urged

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National clinical director Professor Jason Leitch has urged Scots to be careful during Christmas gatherings (John Walton/PA) (PA Archive)
National clinical director Professor Jason Leitch has urged Scots to be careful during Christmas gatherings (John Walton/PA) (PA Archive)

The Omicron variant “is coming”, one of Scotland’s top clinicians has said, as he urged care over Christmas gatherings.

The new variant has become the dominant strain of Covid-19 in Scotland, leading to a spike in case numbers in recent weeks.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also announced this week that restrictions on hospitality and events will return after Christmas, with outdoor gatherings limited to 500 people, indoor seated events capped at 200, and standing at 100.

The Omicron variant is coming, but behaviour and vaccines are keeping it at bay a little

National clinical director Professor Jason Leitch

Nightclubs have also been ordered to close, while one metre social distancing between groups and table service will be mandated for other hospitality premises.

Christmas gatherings were allowed to go ahead, although ministers and officials – including Ms Sturgeon – urged Scots to limit the numbers in attendance as much as possible.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme, national clinical director Professor Jason Leitch said: “You can celebrate Christmas – nobody can cancel Christmas, it’s impossible to cancel Christmas.

“I hope that everybody listening has a fantastic family- and loved one-centred Christmas.

“How you do that is up to you, but we’re asking you to be as careful and as cautious as you can be.

“The virus is rising again because of the new variant.”

He added: “The Omicron variant is coming, but behaviour and vaccines are keeping it at bay a little.

“But tomorrow is crucial for that, because if we suddenly throw caution to the wind, then it will find a way to infect individuals who gather.

“Try and (meet) carefully, test before you meet other people and get yourself vaccinated.”

Vaccination centres will be closed on Christmas Day, Prof Leitch said, but the Scottish Government has announced that test centres will be open in a limited capacity.

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said test centres will be open throughout the festive period (Jane Barlow/PA) (PA Wire)
Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said test centres will be open throughout the festive period (Jane Barlow/PA) (PA Wire)

Test centres will be open throughout the festive period – between 10am and 2pm on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day and 8am and 6pm on other days – while contact tracing will also continue.

In a statement, Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “Testing has been at the heart of our response to this pandemic and anyone who has symptoms or is notified as a close contact by Test and Protect should isolate immediately and book a PCR test.

“The emergence of the Omicron variant means it is more vital than ever that we use every tool at our disposal to identify Covid-19 cases quickly and break off chains of transmission.

“We are urging everyone to stay at home as much as possible over the coming weeks and reduce their mixing with other households.

People should take a lateral flow device test beforehand if they are visiting friends and family, and before situations where there is a higher risk of catching or passing on the virus.”

Mr Yousaf went on to praise the “commitment and dedication” of testing and contact tracing staff.

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