Covid: Mark Drakeford and Nicola Sturgeon demand tougher travel rules and Cobra meeting over Omicron

The first ministers of Wales and Scotland have called on Boris Johnson to enact tougher measures. Credit: PA

Downing Street has rejected calls from the Scottish and Welsh first ministers for tougher travel restrictions and an urgent meeting to tackle the threat posed by the new coronavirus variant.

Mark Drakeford and Nicola Sturgeon wrote a joint letter to the Prime Minister calling for an urgent Cobra meeting to be held on the new Covid-19 Omicron variant and for Treasury support if lockdown measures are needed in Wales or Scotland.

In a letter to Boris Johnson, they also called for tougher travel restrictions.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We would confirm any plans for a cobra meeting in the normal way. Currently, there isn’t one scheduled.

“We obviously speak to our devolved administration counterparts very regularly and we will continue to coordinate our response with them.”

  • Andre Byrne recaps what we know about the new Omicron variant so far:

The UK now has nine confirmed cases of the variant after the Scottish government announced on Monday morning it had discovered four cases in Lanarkshire and two in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde area.

One other case has been identified in Brentwood, Essex, with another in Nottingham, while a third case was detected in England on Sunday in a person with travel links to southern Africa who visited Westminster before leaving the country.

The true number of cases in the UK is likely to be far higher.

In the letter, the first ministers of Wales and Scotland ask for the "opportunity to see the latest evidence from UK Government health professionals" on the Omicron variant.

They also request the reinstatement of the requirement for a day 8 PCR test for travellers arriving into the UK - but it was rejected by No. 10.

They propose arrivals to the UK have to self-isolate for eight days, with tests on day two and day eight.

Currently, passengers arriving in the UK from 4am on Tuesday will be required to take a PCR test by the end of their second day from entry and isolate until they receive a negative test, while 10 southern African nations have been added to the red travel list.

They warn that allowing the new variant to come into the UK would risk under-cutting the public health effort.

Extending the requirements would have a “detrimental effect” on the travel industry, No 10 said.

The spokesman said: “We believe that the approach we’ve taken is the proportionate one to the evidence that we currently have available about this variant.

“Introducing further isolation requirements and testing requirements would have a detrimental effect on the travel industry and indeed those who are planning to go travelling.”

The letter goes on to read: "We also wish to confirm that devolved financial business support schemes will be funded by the Treasury in the event more interventionist measures are required to respond to the public health situation.

"We do not want to be in a position again where our public health interventions are negatively impacted by a lack of financial support, but can be switched on as required for England."

The letter also says: “The emergence of Omicron poses a potential threat to the UK.

“It is clear that the strain is already here and that it appears highly transmissible.

“We need to work collectively – and effectively – as Four Nations to take all reasonable steps to control the ingress of the virus to the country and then to limit its spread.

“We are clear that a four-nations approach to issues such as border restrictions is the most effective approach. This requires that a meeting of the Cobra committee be held as soon as possible.”