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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon outlines new precautions to help halt the spread of the new Omicron variant of coronavirus in Ross-shire and the rest of Scotland

By Ian Duncan

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Nicola Sturgeon.
Nicola Sturgeon.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has outlined new precautions that people should be taking to help stop the spread of the new Omicron Covid-19 variant.

She emphasised the importance of regular testing and vaccinations as well as limiting social contacts in the run up to Christmas.

Ms Sturgeon, who was speaking today in Holyrood, said the additional precautions were necessary because the new strain was more transmissible than the Delta version.

She said: "Omicron is spreading rapidly and is reflected in those showing the S-gene dropout.

"They are increasing exponentially - it was four per cent seven days ago and is currently 27.5 per cent, it is doubling every two to three days.

"The R rate is also above two and is probably closer to four. Omicron is contributing to cases in all age groups."

She said there was a need to slow down Omicron and further measures are needed. She added: "We do not do this lightly.

"We want to keep businesses open and are amending the regulations to legal requirements to ensure minimal transmission - eg retail will return to the start of pandemic controls to reduce crowding and bottlenecks and use of screens.

"Hospitality will work to reduce crowding at bars, tables and will resume taking contact details.

"For employers, working from home is now a legal duty and are grateful to all for this, but not this is as yet not maximised. We recognise those that cannot work from home, anyone in this position is asked to test regularly.

"We will also reinforce rules on face coverings and wearing them properly. I am not asking anyone to cancel Christmas, but to reduce as far as possible contacts with other households."

Ms Sturgeon urged people to minimise social contacts in the coming days and added: "We are not banning this in law - we understand the impact this has on mental health but we are asking people to cut down on contacts with those outside their household to break transmission chains.

"If you do plan on socialising – limit households to three and test before you go. I know this is tough to ask, but Omicron has a very high attack rate – one person is likely to infect many people.

"On Christmas Day I am not asking you to cancel or change plans or limit the size of gatherings."

She said gatherings should be kept small and people should get tested before attending. "I know how much I am asking from people today and would not be doing so if i did not think it was necessary," she said.

On Friday she warned of a "tsunami of cases" and she said: "We are currently the most vaccinated part of the UK, but the virus means we must deliver boosters even faster.

"Protection with just one or two doses is lower and we need the booster to protect against Omicron."

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