Covid Scotland: Nicola Sturgeon accused of being 'too cautious' on self-isolation rules

Nicola Sturgeon has been urged to cut the self-isolation period in Scotland amid fears essential services and the economy risk "grinding to a halt".

The First Minister said she would act "as soon as the public health advice says that the benefits of doing so outweigh the risks of doing so".

But Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross accused her of being "too cautious" and warned the current situation was not sustainable.

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of being "too cautious"

People in England can now stop self-isolating after seven days instead of ten if they test negative twice, on days six and seven.

Mr Ross also wants to see the ten-day period reduced in Scotland if someone tests negative twice.

And he called for changes that would end self-isolation for household contacts after a negative test.

He said this would help prevent essential services and the economy "grinding to a halt because of staff absences".

Speaking during First Minister's Questions on Thursday, Mr Ross said: "These rules, at the moment, right now, are leading to a shortage of workers in our vital services, on our transport system and across the public sector.

"These rules are forcing whole families and households to self-isolate for ten days even if they've tested negative."

He highlighted a "game-changing" Scottish study indicating Omicron is milder than the Delta variant.

Mr Ross said: "The First Minister wants to be cautious, but this seems too cautious.

"Why do people who have tested negative for Covid have to remain in isolation for ten days?"

Ms Sturgeon said acting "rashly" now could be "counterproductive".

She said: "If we err on the side of too much caution and things work out better than we'd hoped, we can lift these restrictions earlier.

"But if we err on the other side, we actually do a lot more damage, and some of that damage is measured in human lives."

She said the issue is being discussed "literally on a daily basis".

Ms Sturgeon said: "I would hope that over the next days, certainly the next couple of weeks, we will start to move to a more proportionate system in terms of self-isolation."

She said sector-based exemptions for businesses had been updated.

The First Minister said self-isolation rules were tightened because Omicron has a "much higher attack rate within groups of people who are living closely together".

If one member of a household tests positive, she said, the likelihood is that others in that household will catch the virus.

Ms Sturgeon said: "The danger is if we move away from that too quickly, then all we do is spread more infection, and actually the impact on the economy, which I absolutely recognise, gets greater."

She added: "I absolutely agree we shouldn't take too long, but nor should we move too quickly at this critical stage of trying to manage our way through the Omicron challenge."

Speaking after FMQs, Mr Ross said: “We understand the need for caution, but the current rules are not sustainable.

“The current rules are forcing whole families and households to self-isolate for ten days, even though they’ve tested negative. The First Minister failed to justify that position.

“The changes we’re calling for are necessary to protect essential services and our economy.”

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