Sturgeon ramps up orders for Scots to work from home: SNP leader tells businesses that all staff who were kept out of the office in the first lockdown should stay away again until at least mid-January
- First Minister delivered tough message as she updated MSPs on Omicron variant
- Told them none of Scotland’s current restrictions will be eased before Christmas
- Told firms that if they allowed staff to WFH earlier in pandemic, ‘do so again’
Nicola Sturgeon today ramped up work from home orders for Scots – demanding businesses make sure people stay away from offices.
The First Minister delivered the tough message as she updated MSPs on the threat from the Omicron variant.
Amid fears that the mutant strain is on track to sweep the country within weeks, Ms Sturgeon insisted that none of the current restrictions north of the border will be eased before Christmas.
Making clear that included the instruction to work from home where possible, the SNP leader said: ‘I know this is difficult, but I cannot stress enough how much difference we think this could make in helping stem transmission and avoid the need for even more onerous measures.’
In a direct call to employers, Ms Sturgeon said that ‘if you had staff working from home at this start of the pandemic, please now enable them to do so again’.
delivered the tough message as she gave updated MSPs on the threat from Omicron
In total, there are 46,000 Covid cases on average each day in the UK and data from the Covid Genomics UK Consortium (COG-UK) suggests the new strain is already behind around one in 66 of them, or 1.4 per cent
Ms Sturgeon also urged Scots to follow rules around testing and self-isolation should they have symptoms, as well as regular lateral flow testing.
‘I am not excluding myself from this,’ she said.
‘I am currently doing a test every morning before coming to work and I will do a test on any occasion I mix with others over the festive period. I will ask anyone visiting my home over Christmas to do likewise.’
Ms Sturgeon urged MSPs to ‘lead by example’ on testing.
The intervention came after Dominic Raab today insisted the government’s coronavirus ‘Plan B’ for England is still unnecessary despite increasingly grim warnings about the Omicron strain.
The deputy PM struck an optimistic note about Christmas in a round of interviews, saying the tougher restrictions are ‘not required’ due to the success of the vaccine programme.
The defiant stance came after Theresa May was cheered to the rafters by Tory MPs last night as she accused ministers of putting businesses at risk by ‘stopping and starting sectors of our economy’.
The ex-premier said the new mutation appeared to lead to less serious illness and the country must ‘learn to live with Covid’.
However, fresh doubts about the fate of the festive season were raised this morning as experts warned Omicron is spreading faster in the UK than expected.
Eminent epidemiologist Professor Tim Spector claimed infections with the variant were doubling every two days and that there were up to 2,000 cases already — five times more than the official count.
The King’s College London scientist, who runs the country’s largest symptom-tracking study, estimated that in 10 days’ time Britain will have more Omicron cases than most African countries at the epicentre of the new outbreak.
Dr Jeffrey Barrett, head of Covid surveillance at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, said Omicron was likely to become the UK dominant strain ‘within a matter of weeks’ rather than months like initially hoped.
But Mr Raab today rejected the idea of bringing in more curbs, such as orders to work from home or vaccine passports. ‘We don’t think Plan B is required,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. ‘Why? Because of the success of the vaccine programme.’
Dominic Raab struck an optimistic note about Christmas in a round of interviews earlier, saying Plan B restrictions are ‘not required’ in England due to the success of the vaccine programme
Mr Raab was more definitive than Boris Johnson who yesterday refused to rule out tightening restrictions over the festive period, merely insisting that Christmas will be ‘better’ than last year.
Scientists expect booster jabs to give high protection against severe illness and death from Omicron, even if the variant makes vaccines much less effective at preventing infection.
No10 announced last week that it plans to ramp up the booster programme to 500,000 jabs per day and offer a third dose to all 53million British adults by the end of January to shield against the incoming wave.
But the ‘turbocharged’ campaign already appears to be stalling with just 290,000 delivered across Britain. And, on average, just 378,000 are being administered each day.
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