Covid Scotland: Omicron to become dominant variant in Scotland 'within days'

Omicron is set to become the dominant coronavirus variant in Scotland within weeks, or even days, a Scottish Government briefing paper has warned.

First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon wears a protective face mask as she waits to receive her booster jab of the coronavirus vaccine in Glasgow this month.
First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon wears a protective face mask as she waits to receive her booster jab of the coronavirus vaccine in Glasgow this month.

In a paper published ahead of the First Minister’s press conference at lunchtime, the briefing document said that the spread of the variant was doubling every 2.18 to 2.66 days and already is likely to make up 13.3 per cent of Scottish cases. It said it was likely to become dominant “between mid December and early January”.

The document said that the latest data, up to Thursday, shows there have been 109 confirmed, 48 highly probable, and 938 possible Omicron variant cases reported in Scotland, a total of 1,095.

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Suspected cases of the variant are identified due to an “S gene drop out”, which is indicative of Omicron even without full genomic sequencing, as the previous dominant variant, Delta, did not have the indicator, so any new cases demonstrating the feature are likely to be Omicron.

It said: “Based on the data presented in this paper which is up to and including 9 December, it is highly probable that Omicron will outcompete Delta and become the dominant variant within Scotland very quickly, with the potential to cause high case numbers.

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"Using this data, Omicron is likely to make up the majority of cases in Scotland between mid-December and early January 2022.”

The document warned that the high numbers of infection was likely to increase pressure on hospitals, although not enough is yet known about the severity of the illness caused by the variant.

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It added: “It is likely that a proportion of these infections will result in hospitalisation. To avoid the NHS being put under severe pressure Omicron would need to be substantially less severe than Delta (either because of the characteristics of Omicron or the effectiveness of vaccination against severe disease) given the very substantial number of infections projected.”

The paper showed that so far, more likely Omicron cases have been identified in women than men for all age groups except the under 20s and over 70s. However, the paper said this is based on a relatively small number of cases and may vary over time. It also may be due to different testing patterns among males and females, as women typically have health and social care jobs that require them to test more frequently, picking up more more asymptomatic cases among women compared to men.

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