Omicron Covid variant: Three new cases bring UK total to 14 with another 10 'highly likely'
Three new cases of the Omicron Covid variant have been found in Scotland, taking the UK's total to 14, and there another 10 "highly probable" cases in England, it has been revealed.
Scotland currently has the majority of confirmed cases with nine. There are five cases in the Lanarkshire area and four in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, up from the six across the two areas, Health Secretary Humza Yousaf announced on Monday.
In England there are five confirmed cases. Two cases in London were reported on Monday, adding to the two cases identified on Saturday in Brentwood, Essex and Nottingham and a third case confirmed on Sunday.Mr Yousaf said Scotland will accelerate its vaccination booster programme in a bid to combat the new variant, but that workforce issues will be the “biggest constraining factor”.
Booster vaccinations are being extended to all those aged 18 and over in Scotland in line with the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) recommendation, with the interval after the second dose cut from six to three months.
Mr Yousaf told BBC Good Morning Scotland: “We have adequate supply including with the most recent JCVI advice but the biggest constraining factor is workforce, we’d have to go from a position of administering around about 500,000 flu and booster vaccines, don’t forget we’re also doing flu vaccines, a week to around about 700,000 a week, that is before yesterday’s advice came in .
“Now with yesterday’s advice we suspect there’s an additional at least 1 million doses added to the eligibility criteria.”
He said authorities are working to ramp up the programme and “accelerate it as quickly as we possibly can”.
Mr Yousaf said that calls to reopen mass vaccination centres do not take account of the “challenges and complexities” of the vaccination programme, and authorities do not want to take NHS staff away from other important duties.
He told the programme: “The NHS is under significant pressure, what we don’t want to do is take people away from really core, important, significant duties – the NHS is already under significant pressure – and get them doing vaccinations.
“We will certainly do what we can. Before JCVI advice came out yesterday, just for the acceleration I spoke about, we’d need an additional 440 whole-time equivalents to help us with that vaccination programme.
“With JCVI advice yesterday that will significantly increase, so we’ll do what we can but of course additional premises are absolutely a part of the plan.”
Mr Yousaf also said there appeared to be no connection between the Omicron variant cases identified in Scotland and COP26 or a recent South Africa rugby match.
He said: “There’s nothing that indicates these cases or this new variant has come via the rugby or Cop26 but that work of course is still ongoing.”
Listen to our coronavirus podcast
Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the advice from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) “has shown that if we have significant surges in Covid cases, then actually working from home is one of the key ones to implement and that’s why it is in Plan B.
“But it’s probably worth just thinking through at the moment; although I’m sure we will have more cases announced, we do only have five confirmed cases (of the new Omicron variant in England) and 10 highly probable at the moment.
“So it’s a very early stage for this, I think, but certainly, if we see surges, then working from home will be a good thing to do.”