Omicron Scotland: More cases expected as outbreak linked to Glasgow concert

The number of cases of the Omicron Covid-19 variant in Scotland has more than doubled, as Nicola Sturgeon warned a further “significant” rise is expected in the days ahead.

Cases are no longer linked to a single event, which the Scottish Government said confirms evidence of community transmission of Omicron within Scotland.

The figure rose from 13 to 29 on Friday, with cases reported in health boards outside of Lanarkshire and Greater Glasgow and Clyde for the first time.

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It comes as the BMA Scotland warned the NHS may never recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr Andrew Buist, chair of the BMA Scottish GP committee, told a conference on Friday he was “not convinced we will ever get back to where we were”.

Five cases of Omicron have been identified in NHS Forth Valley, with three in Highland and one in Grampian, the Scottish Government announced on Friday.

Six cases have been linked to a Steps concert at Glasgow’s Hydro on November 22.

The Scottish Events Campus (SEC) said vaccine passports were not required at this event, but the SEC and event promoter AEG refused to say how many people were there.

Vaccine passports were required for unseated indoor events with more than 500 people and any event with over 10,000 attendees.

The Scottish Government said the risk to attendees is low, and only those with symptoms or who are contacted by Test and Protect need to self-isolate.

Ms Sturgeon said: “The number of Omicron cases now being reported in Scotland is rising, and cases are no longer all linked to a single event, but to several different sources, including a Steps concert at the Hydro on November 22.

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"This confirms our view that there is now community transmission of this variant within Scotland.

"Given the nature of transmission, we would expect to see cases rise – perhaps significantly – in the days ahead.

"However, health protection teams are continuing work through contact tracing, isolation and testing to slow the spread as far as possible while we learn more about the new variant’s impact. Ministers are also keeping the situation under daily review.”

The SEC said all Covid-19 guidelines were followed at the event.

A spokesperson said: “As with any event taking place at the Scottish Event Campus, the most up-to-date public health guidance relating to Covid-19 was followed on the evening of November 22.

"We will continue to work closely with Test and Protect colleagues to provide them with any information they require.”

Dr Andrew Buist warned on Friday that “urgent action” is needed to address GP staffing shortages.

In a speech to the Scottish Local Medical Committee (SLMC) conference, Dr Buist said the Scottish Government needs to urgently come up with a plan to get the new GP contract, set back by the pandemic, back on track.

“This pandemic has greatly disrupted our NHS,” he said.

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"Waiting times for hospital investigations and treatments have rocketed, the pressures on social care are immense and, in many ways, they are currently the most pressing – because if care in the community fails, then hospitals cannot hope to function.”

He added: “It is going to take many years for the NHS to recover from the pandemic. Indeed, I am not convinced we will ever get back to where we were.”

The pandemic has exposed the fact that Scotland’s healthcare model is unsustainable, Dr Buist said, and unable to cope with the rising demands of an ageing population.

"In world terms we are a wealthy country, but our resources are not unlimited,” he said.

"Pursuit of impossible targets within ever-more stretched budgets raises expectations that cannot be fulfilled, frustrating the public, burning out our workforce and leading in some cases to energies being invested in obstruction, diversion and a culture dominated by fear and blame.

“I believe we need to review what is we are trying to achieve through our health care system, and I call upon the Scottish Government – I urge them – to commit to deliver a genuine, open and honest conversation with the public and key stakeholders to build a realistic achievable vision of what we in Scotland can, and should, provide to our people within the constraints of care, free at the point of delivery.”

Labour MSP Jackie Baillie labelled Dr Buist’s comments as a “stark warning”.

“We are not just trying to recover from the devastation of the pandemic, but from years of mounting pressures and neglect,” she said.

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“Our doctors and nurses are over-worked, under-resourced and stretched to breaking point. We cannot afford to wait years to get back on track while lives are at stake.”

“Our NHS is on life support, but the SNP are tinkering around the edges. We need a real recovery plan urgently.”

The new GP contract involves measures to reduce GP workload and expand multi-disciplinary teams, meaning some patients visiting GP practices would be seen by other practitioners, such as physiotherapists or pharmacists.

It was intended to be phased in between 2018 and April 2021, but has been delayed.

Health secretary Humza Yousaf told the BMA conference that he was “fully committed” to the new contract.

"I want there to be no doubt at all that I am absolutely committed to the full, full implementation of the contract,” he said.

"For me it's the right approach, it eases workload pressure, continues to ensure general practices is an attractive career choice, enables you to spend more time as experts as medical generalists.

"But also, crucially, we think it's to the benefit of the patient, of the public.

"That for me is the value of the contract.”

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Mr Yousaf added his thanks to GPs and practice staff for their work during the pandemic.

“I don't need to tell anybody attending this conference just just how challenging the last 20 months have been, and just how challenging the circumstances are today,” he said. “You are under and have been under an extreme amount of pressure.”

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