The household contacts of any person who tests positive for Covid should isolate for ten days, Nicola Sturgeon has said, as she warned of a potential “tsunami” of infections.
The First Minister said the change, which will be introduced from Saturday, is “essential”, with fears over a rising number of cases across the country.
At a Covid briefing on Friday, Sturgeon said that a total of 110 Omicron cases had been confirmed in Scotland as of Thursday at 5pm, as she indicated the Government’s certainty of a new surge.
The First Minister explained that the Omicron variant is “significantly” more transmissible than the Delta variant.
And she urged people to defer any planned Christmas parties this year, as she warned of the risk posed by the variant.
“Throughout the pandemic, particularly at key stages, I’ve tried to be open and upfront with you about the challenges and uncertainties confronting us,” she said in her opening remarks at the briefing.
“So that you can better understand, if not always agree with, the difficult judgments and decisions we have had to make.
“This is another moment when such frankness is really important.
“So the purpose of today’s update is to level with you on what we know about spread in Scotland of the new Omicron variant – and also our estimate of what we are likely to face in the days and weeks to come.
“The fact is we face a renewed and very severe challenge in the face of the new Omicron variant.
“To be blunt, because of the much greater and faster transmissibility of this new variant, we may be facing, indeed we may be starting to experience, a potential tsunami of infections.”
Sturgeon acknowledged that it is “not easy”, adding that the changes will be kept under review.
She said: “From tomorrow, our advice would be that all household contacts of any confirmed Covid case should isolate for ten days, regardless of their vaccination status and even if they initially get a negative PCR test.
“I know that this is not easy and we will obviously keep it under review. We will also ensure careful exemptions for critical services.
“But we believe this to be essential at this moment to help slow transmission.
“Non-household contact should continue to isolate pending a PCR result. If that is negative, they can leave isolation at that point as long as they are double vaccinated.”
The First Minister said that additional Covid protective measures cannot be ruled out, as she outlined the importance of taking early action.
She said: “The public health advice, which I’ve no alternative but to agree with given the evidence of risk that I know about and have now shared with you, is that we should all think a bit more carefully about unnecessary contact, especially in crowded places just now and that it would be sensible to defer work Christmas parties.
“Now, I know this has a big impact on businesses, which is why we are considering and pressing the UK Government on financial support.
“But once again, we face a situation that frankly has no easy options. We know that any additional protective measures will cause social and economic harms, especially after almost two years of this pandemic.
“But we also know from past experience that early action is often needed when dealing with this virus.
“In fact, acting early is often the best way of acting proportionately. So we can’t rule out further measures, and I’m afraid we can’t avoid the advice that I have shared with you today.
“I’ll continue to do all I can to be up front and open with you in the days ahead, and I continue to be so grateful for the responsibility the vast majority of people across the population are showing.”