Covid Scotland: Calls for 'more restrictions now' as circuit breaker lockdown not ruled out in England

More restrictions are needed now to curb the spread of Omicron in Scotland, a senior NHS figure has said.

It comes as National Clinical Director Professor Jason Leitch said it is better to "act harder" and "early" while Deputy First Minister John Swinney said the government is continuing to monitor the “really aggressive” spread of Omicron.

UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid has refused to rule out a circuit-breaker lockdown across the whole of England before Christmas.

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And fresh restrictions to limit the spread of the Omicron variant are "inevitable" in London, mayor Sadiq Khan said.

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - DECEMBER 15. Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Some 5,924 new cases of Covid-19 were reported in Scotland on Sunday. However, Public Health Scotland has noted a delay on reporting of test results due to the large number currently being processed.

The number of confirmed cases of the Omicron variant remains at 792, but the true figure is estimated to be several times higher.

Jillian Evans, head of Health Intelligence at NHS Grampian, said Scotland cannot “boost itself out” of the Omicron crisis and further restrictions are needed now.

"We can't boost ourselves out in time," she told the BBC.

"We need more restrictions now. There are lots of things we can do individually which will make a huge difference but making things more official - and by that I'm talking about curtailing access to certain things, closing certain things - does bring the numbers down and buys us more time for people to be boosted."

Speaking to the BBC’s Sunday Show, Prof Leitch said the current position in Scotland is “worrying”.

“I make no bones about that. This new variant didn't exist 21 days ago - it's quite astonishing and it's happened just before Christmas again,” he said.

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"Better to act early than later, better to act harder than softer - we've learned that over two years I'm afraid."

Sajid Javid said UK Government scientific advisers’ warning of the possible impact on hospital admissions from Omicron is “sobering” and said there are “no guarantees” when asked about the possibility of further restrictions.

He told The Andrew Marr Show: “It’s a very sobering analysis. We take it very seriously.”

He added: “We do have to challenge data and underlying assumptions, I think that is appropriate, and take into account a broader set of facts.”

When it was suggested to him he was not ruling out a circuit-breaker or new restrictions before Christmas, Mr Javid said: “There are no guarantees in this pandemic, I don’t think.

“At this point we just have to keep everything under review.”

Mr Javid said Omicron is “spreading rapidly” and now accounts for around 80 per cent of infections in London and about 60 per cent in England.

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Nicola Sturgeon announced on Friday that the variant had become dominant in Scotland, accounting for more than 50 per cent of cases.

Leaked notes from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergency (Sage) suggest that without stronger restrictions, England could see hospital admissions reach 3,000 a day.

Mark Woolhouse, a Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at Edinburgh University and a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M), said current measures in England would not be enough to bring the Omicron wave completely under control.

He told Times Radio: “I think it’s absolutely right that governments and administrations around the UK are planning for that possibility as they are doing.”

He added: “We can’t afford to wait, but there is still the decision to make about what level of interventions.”

He said there was a “difficult balancing act”, but added: “I’m personally in favour of doing everything you can to make contacts as safe as possible, rather than banning them altogether.”

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Sadiq Khan declared a major incident in London on Saturday over the rapid rise in cases.

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It is “inevitable” that new measures will be brought in, he told the Andrew Marr show on Sunday.

"The direction of travel is only going one way: cases doubling over two days”, he said.

Mr Khan said: “I think if we don’t bring in new restrictions sooner rather than later, you’re going to see even more positive cases and potentially public services like the NHS on the verge of collapse, if not collapsing.”

He added: “I think we should be able to celebrate Christmas safely. But I think sooner rather than later we’re going to look at social distancing, we’re going to have to look at household mixing.

“Because if we don’t, the number of cases is only going one way and the issue isn’t the seriousness of the consequences, not just that, it’s also the numbers of people who have the virus.”

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said the Scottish Government will update parliament next week on the “really aggressive” spread of Omicron.

"We will, of course, be updating parliament in the course of this week, on the further views that we have about any other measures that we need to take,” the Deputy First Minister told BBC Breakfast.

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Mr Swinney said the Government was not asking people to change their plans for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day or Boxing Day, but to “dial down” their interactions around these days.

He said: “Obviously there’s some larger events that take place, we’re saying to people before they go to them they should test themselves with lateral flow tests to make sure that they are negative.

“They should be vaccinated, they should get the booster jag.

“We’re saying to people in a whole variety of different ways to take steps to avoid being carriers of the virus.”

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