Scotland to be battered by 80mph winds as weather warnings issued

A yellow weather warning has been issued for the majority of Scotland on Friday and the rest of the UK on Saturday.

Warning: Strong winds up to 80mph set to batter Scotland over the weekend. chris-mueller via IStock
Warning: Strong winds up to 80mph set to batter Scotland over the weekend.

Scotland is set to be battered by winds up to 80mph towards the end of the week as the Met Office issued two weather warnings.

A yellow weather warning has been issued for the majority of Scotland on Friday, coming into effect from midday until midnight. 

The Met Office said gusts are likely to reach 50mph to 60mph widely, but could reach 70mph to 80mph in coastal areas.

Delays to public transport are expected, with ferry, train and bus services likely to be disrupted. 

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Power cuts may occur and mobile phone service may be affected by winds, with the Met Office adding buildings may be damaged as tiles are blown from roofs.

The yellow warning issued for Saturday will extend to cover the majority of the UK and will come into effect from midnight until 6pm.

STV meteorologist Sean Batty said: “It’s been a while since we’ve experienced stormy conditions, and so far autumn has been pretty quiet. This week we go into a much more disturbed phase with periods of strong winds and some wintry weather for higher ground – again it’s been a while.

“There are two bouts of strong winds, one Wednesday evening and then again Friday through to Saturday. Winds will pick up on Wednesday afternoon in the north of the country with gusts around 60mph possible across Orkney the north Highlands and perhaps Lewis for a while before moving into the north east of the country. This spell of wind weather eases down into Thursday morning before we see the next spell developing on Friday.

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“The winds on Friday will be stronger with a risk of gusts peaking at 70 to 80mph in the most exposed parts of the Northern Isles, north Highlands, and then later the Buchan area. Even through this is where the peak will be, the whole country will experience wild weather on Friday night into Saturday.

“As the storm system clears away this will bring stronger winds down the east coast for a time where gusts could reach 60-70mph early on Saturday.

“All the time we will be in colder air and with the wind added on it’ll feel near freezing in the north. Ice is also likely to be an issue on the highest routes in northern parts of the country too.

“While this is nothing out of the ordinary, it’s still going to be a shock after such a mild autumn.”


Storm Arwen causes travel chaos as 100,000 homes left without power

Photos show the significant damage that many parts of the country have suffered as a result of the storm.

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Transport services in Scotland were thrown into chaos and more than 100,000 homes were left without electricity as Storm Arwen battered parts of the country.

The Met Office issued a rare red weather alert for wind from Friday at 3pm until 2am on Saturday, warning some areas could see gusts reaching 80mph to 90mph.

An amber weather warning for wind remains in place for the Highlands, Central Belt, including Edinburgh, Grampian and Orkney and Shetland until Saturday morning.

At least two people have died as the storm swept through the UK due to falling trees in County Antrim, Northern Ireland and Ambleside in Lancashire.

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Photos on social media showed the significant damage that many parts of the country have suffered as a result of the storm.

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Damage to the Charleston Bar in Dundee.

Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) said more than 100,000 customers were out of power. The main areas affected are Aberdeenshire, Angus, Perthshire and the Moray Coast.

The utility firm has managed to restore power to a 40,000 homes affected by the storms but warned the weather was severely hampering its work.

Mark Rough, director of customer operations at SSEN, said: “Storm Arwen has brought some of the most severe and challenging weather we have experienced in recent years, resulting in significant disruption across the north of Scotland.

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Cars crushed by trees in Banchory, Aberdeenshire
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“Despite detailed preparations, the prolonged and severe nature of the weather front has hampered efforts to restore supplies, with the high winds expected to continue until the early hours of the morning. We therefore expect many customers to remain without power into tomorrow, particularly in the Aberdeenshire area.

“We would like to apologise to all our customers who have experienced a loss of supply and would like to reassure them that our teams are working hard to prioritise faults and carry out repairs at the earliest opportunity. To support restoration efforts, we have helicopters on standby to monitor the network for damage from first light tomorrow morning.

“We continue to prioritise proactive contact to our customers on our Priority Services Register to offer extra support where required and I’d encourage anyone concerned to give our dedicated teams a call on 105, where we can provide additional support and guidance.”

It is understood some passengers spent 17 hours stuck on board a train in Huntly due to rail routes being closed for safety.

One told Fubar News: “Currently stuck on a train in Huntly. I personally have been on this thing for over 17 hours now.

“Many people on here have been on more. Staff onboard have been excellent. They managed to do an Asda run for water, sandwiches, snacks etc. Somehow even managed to source a kettle for tea/coffee. Also arranged for a local baker to bring down bacon rolls and fresh pies.

“Staff on board have been sharing what little info they get when they can. We were informed that a bus was coming from Inverness (no other companies were willing to take the risk) but that is also subject to road conditions.”

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Rod Dennis, of RAC Breakdown, said those living in areas covered by amber weather warnings should consider postponing their planned trips until the storm passes.

Network Rail Scotland (NRS) confirmed services in the north from Aberdeen to Inverness and Aberdeen to Dundee had to be closed on Friday night due to fallen trees and debris on the lines.

The east coast line between Edinburgh and Berwick-upon-Tweed and the North Berwick line have also had to close due to the extreme weather.

On Friday evening Karl Grewar, head of integrated control at NRS, said the lines were closed for safety reasons and will not reopen “until it is safe to do so”.

“We will be doing everything we can to open the lines as soon as we’re able to get people moving,” he said.

CalMac Ferries confirmed multiple services had to be cancelled due to the extreme wind causing dangerous sailing conditions at sea.

Part of the A1 in East Lothian, between Haddington and the Thistly Cross roundabout, had to close because of 84mph winds forecast for Friday evening.


Swinney: Devolution being hollowed out by Boris Johnson

The deputy first minister will claim Johnson 'secretly wants to take back powers' from devolved governments.

Scottish Parliament via Parliament TV
Swinney: Deputy first minister to address SNP conference on Saturday.

Devolution is being “hollowed out” by Boris Johnson, who secretly wants to take back powers from devolved parliaments, John Swinney will claim.

Scotland’s deputy first minister will tell the SNP conference to “stand up and be counted before it’s too late” to defend devolution.

Swinney is expected to tell members that the Conservative Government wants “unfettered Westminster control on Scotland” and is using Brexit to undermine devolution.

But his comments have been dismissed as “simply nonsense” by the UK Government.

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In a virtual speech, he will argue that “the only way to keep the gains of devolution is by becoming independent” and suggest that decisions made at Holyrood “can be routinely undermined at a whim by the Tories”.

Swinney is expected to say: “We are now seeing a concerted attack on our parliament, from the very people who fought tooth and nail against it being established in the first place.

“In a grotesque irony, the Tories are using something that the people of Scotland voted overwhelmingly against – Brexit – to undermine something they voted overwhelmingly for – the Scottish Parliament.

“Through the Internal Market Act, the Tories have given themselves unfettered power to decide the rules of the internal market – and to completely ignore the devolution settlement if they want to.”

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Claiming that the Prime Minister could wish to reverse devolution, Swinney will add: “There will be no sudden Big Bang moment, Boris Johnson is not going to stand up and announce to the cheering Tory faithful that he is dismantling the devolution settlement – much as I am sure he would like to.

“But make no mistake – piece by piece, devolution is quietly being filleted, hollowed out from the inside by a Tory Party which has always opposed the idea of anything other than unfettered Westminster control on Scotland.

“Much like the climate emergency, which is slowly creeping up on us every single day – we need to issue a code red for devolution.

“All of us who care so deeply about the Scottish Parliament and its role in Scottish public life need to stand up and be counted before it is too late.”

A UK Government spokeswoman said: “This is simply nonsense.

“The Internal Market Bill ensures that vital trade can continue seamlessly between all four corners of the UK.

“Now more than ever, people in Scotland want to see the UK and Scottish governments working together to protect lives and livelihoods.

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“The pandemic, and our collective response – from the furlough scheme to vaccine procurement and the backing of our military personnel – has shown that we are at our strongest when we work together.”


Oh yes, she is doing panto on the stage her dad loved

Daughter stars in King's Theatre panto which for years featured the late renowned actor Andy Gray.

Clare Gray via Contributed

Panto legend Andy Gray’s daughter is planning the perfect tribute to her dad by producing a sparking performance on the stage he loved.

Gray, who also starred in City Lights and River City, was described as a “national treasure” when he died following an illness earlier this year aged 61.

In Edinburgh, he was best known for his annual appearance in the King’s Theatre panto alongside Grant Stott and Allan Stewart.

And this year, his daughter Clare, 31, is making sure the ‘Gray’ name remains up in the lights above the theatre door.

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Andy Gray starred in many King’s Theatre pantos.
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She will play Narcissa in the production of Sleeping Beauty, alongside her dad’s fellow stalwarts Stott and Stewart.

Clare told STV News that her return to the King’s ahead of the opening show on Saturday was an emotional experience.

“It was really overwhelming, just because I expected to see him in his dressing room, putting out all his toiletries and getting ready, so that was really tough,” she said.

“But at the same time, it was really comforting because my dad and I spent so many special times here.

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“The past few years we’d done panto together and the last time I stood on that stage was our final panto performance.

“Obviously we didn’t know that was his last ever panto performance, but we ended it holding hands, so it’s really special.”

For 16 years, Gray happily played, in his own words, “the idiot” in panto favourites such as Aladdin and Cinderella, and Clare is determined to make her dad proud.

“There’s a few bits I do as Narcissa that I can totally feel my dad would have done,” she said. “He would just be delighted that I was doing it again. He really would.”

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Clare Gray in panto at King’s Theatre Edinburgh

Stewart said Gray would be in the cast’s thoughts during the panto, which runs until January 16.

He said: “We all got this photograph today from one of the crew and it’s Andy just waiting to walk on stage with the spotlight shining on him.

“It was the most touching emotional thing I’ve ever seen, so we believe he’s here watching us going ‘it’s not as funny without me’.

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“There’s a really beautiful bit towards the end that is a beautiful tribute to him and I think he would have been very touched by it.”

King’s Theatre via Contributed
The photograph of Andy Gray waiting to walk on stage.

Sturgeon won’t say if she’ll lead SNP into next election

First Minister also discusses plans for the Cambo oilfield and a second independence referendum.

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Nicola Sturgeon has refused say whether she intends to lead the SNP into the next Scottish Parliament election.

The First Minister said it was “preposterous” to reveal her plans nearly five years before the poll, after rumours began circulating following a magazine interview.

Sturgeon, speaking to STV News ahead of the SNP conference, also discussed her plans for a second independence referendum and the controversial Cambo oilfield expansion.

“I intend to fulfil the mandate I won in the election just seven months ago with a historically high share of the vote,” Sturgeon said.

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“I intend to be First Minister for this term of parliament and, like most people, I’ll think about the next election when we get closer to the next election.”

Speculation began after the First Minister said she and her husband, the party’s chief executive Peter Murrell, may foster children in the future during an interview with Vogue magazine last month.

“The fact that my opponents seem to be incapable of beating me themselves doesn’t mean they should look to me to do their job for them and somehow remove myself from office,” Sturgeon said.

“That ain’t going to happen.”

‘Cambo needs a rigorous assessment’

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The First Minister also eased off on the strength of her opposition to the Cambo oilfield expansion, after saying ten days ago that she did not believe the proposed drilling should be given the green light.

But on Friday, Sturgeon returned her previous point of view – that the plans should undergo a “rigorous climate assessment”.

She insisted that she was “absolutely emphatically not” abandoning the oil and gas industry.

“The science is telling us we have to move away as quickly as possible from fossil fuels, or frankly we don’t limit global warming in the way that we need to do for the sake of the future of our planet,” Sturgeon said.

“No leader should put their head in the sand and ignore that.”

She said Scotland needed to accelerate a “just transition” away from oil and gas that did not leave the 100,000 people working in the sector on the “economic scrapheap”.

‘Indyref2 plans depend on Covid’

The First Minister said she intended to take steps towards a second independence referendum before the end of 2023 – an SNP manifesto commitment.

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But Sturgeon would not be drawn on when Scots can expect the government to publish a referendum bill.

“Exactly at what point next year we will introduce that bill depends on, not least, when we’ve got through the winter and Covid,” she said.

“But I’m very clear, Covid permitting, I intend to take these steps in a timescale that will allow a referendum to happen in that timescale.”

Asked whether those plans take into account potential legal action, she said there was no need if those in political office “simply accept democracy”.

“I’m not planning to take legal action, if the UK Government are planning to take legal action to overturn Scottish democracy, perhaps it’s them you should be asking that question of,” Sturgeon said.


Ken Bruce: Broadcasting Queen’s Christmas message was stressful

The veteran broadcaster was involved in the transmission of the Monarch's festive speech between 1986 and 1990.

Miljan Živković via IStock
Bruce: Veteran broadcaster recalls 'stress' of getting Queen's speech on air.

Ken Bruce has revealed the BBC used multiple back-up tapes and an extra power generator as a precaution during its broadcast of the Queen’s Christmas message during the 1980s.

The veteran broadcaster, 70, was involved in the festive transmission on a number of occasions between 1986 and 1990 while hosting his weekday mid-morning show on BBC Radio 2.

He said the responsibility created a “particular stress”, despite him only needing to press a button on his desk to start the tape rolling.

Writing in the Radio Times, he said: “I volunteered to come in live on the big day for a number of years.

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“With a show running from 9am until 11, I could pop the turkey in the oven at 7am on a low light and be home in time to take it out perfectly cooked for lunch.

“No traffic on the roads and a feeling of satisfaction at imagining I was providing a public service.

“The particular stress came in the form of the Queen’s Christmas message.

“Back then it was broadcast on radio in the morning, at 10am in our case on Radio 2. This was termed a grade one broadcast; nothing could be permitted to go wrong.

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“Timings had to be exact; the introductory words had to be delivered accurately and with gravitas, and I had to press the button on my desk to set the tape rolling.

“I had to simultaneously start a back-up in case the original failed. To allow for the possibility of both failing, another studio next door was also running a further copy.

“This, you might think, would be belt and braces enough. But no. As a final precaution, the generators in the basement of Broadcasting House were fired up, just in case of a power cut.

“Not one of these fail-safe measures was ever needed on my Christmas mornings, but their very existence fed the worries.”

Bruce said the thought of the detailed preparations that had gone into “protecting a straightforward operation from being fouled up by a half-witted broadcaster” made him doubt his ability to press the button at the correct moment.

“After surviving that, forgetting the bread sauce or burning the roast potatoes became unimportant,” he added.

Read the full story in Radio Times, out now.


Dozens arrested as climate groups target Amazon on Black Friday

At least 13 people have been arrested in three of the locations, police forces have confirmed.

Ian West via PA Media
Protests: At least 13 people have been arrested.

Arrests have been made after climate protesters staged blockades at a number of Amazon warehouses across the country during the busiest day of the retailer’s year.

Extinction Rebellion (XR) said its Black Friday demonstration took place at sites in Doncaster, Darlington, Newcastle, Manchester, Peterborough, Derby, Coventry, Rugeley, Dartford, Bristol, Tilbury, Milton Keynes and Dunfermline.

Activists arrived in the early hours of Friday to set up bamboo structures and “lock-ons”, and held banners urging Amazon to cut its emissions.

Some people could also be seen wearing masks of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and setting up tents on the road as police officers began to move in.

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At least 13 people have been arrested in three of the locations, police forces have confirmed.

The group, which is also drawing attention to alleged exploitation of Amazon workers, said it planned to remain at the scene for at least 48 hours.

An XR spokesperson said: “The action is intended to draw attention to Amazon’s exploitative and environmentally destructive business practices, disregard for workers’ rights in the name of company profits, as well as the wastefulness of Black Friday.

“The blockade is part of an international action by XR targeting 15 Amazon fulfilment centres in the UK, US, Germany and the Netherlands, aimed at highlighting Amazon’s ‘crimes’.

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“This is happening in solidarity with activists and workers from the global Make Amazon Pay campaign, demanding better working conditions, clear environmental commitments and for Amazon to pay their fair share of tax.

“Amazon continues to lobby the US government to fight against climate legislation while telling the public they are committed to green initiatives.

“They are committing the very definition of greenwash.”

At the Dartford site, around 20 activists set up the blockade on a road at just before 5am.

Kent Police said: “Those present are situated in front of two entrances where some are locked on to concrete and wooden structures.

“Officers are in attendance and are working to end the protest whilst liaising with partner agencies, and the managers at the business, to minimise traffic disruption in the area.”

The force later arrested five people on suspicion of aggravated trespass before they were taken into custody.

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The other attendees dispersed by 2.30pm.

Two men and two women were also arrested on suspicion of public nuisance at the site in Manchester.

A further four were arrested by Durham Police following a demonstration outside the Amazon depot in Darlington.

XR’s spokesperson at the Dunfermline blockade, Meg Paton-Jones, said: “The police have one van on site and they are watching us.

“We started here at about 4am but are not blocking the employees’ car park so the night shift can leave.

“We have good vibes and music.”

Officers from West Midlands Police were at the scene of the Coventry blockade from 4am and said they have been “managing traffic”.

A number of other forces including Avon and Somerset, Staffordshire and Police Scotland said officers had been “engaging” with protesters.

Amazon said it is working to minimise any potential disruption to customers.

A spokesman said: “At Amazon, we take our responsibilities very seriously.

“That includes our commitment to be net-zero carbon by 2040 – ten years ahead of the Paris Agreement – providing excellent pay and benefits in a safe and modern work environment, and supporting the tens of thousands of British small businesses who sell on our store.

“We know there is always more to do, and we’ll continue to invent and invest on behalf of our employees, customers, small businesses and communities in the UK.

“We’re proud to have invested £32bn in the UK since 2010, creating 10,000 new permanent jobs across the country this year alone, and generating a total UK tax contribution of £1.55bn in 2020.”

FM urged to put flagship hospital under ministerial control

Scottish Labour repeated demands following concerns over Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow.

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Concerns: Scottish Labour urge First Minister to put hospital under ministerial control.

Nicola Sturgeon has been told she “must” put a flagship hospital under direct ministerial control and sack senior figures at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar repeated demands for the First Minister to step in, amid concerns about the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow.

It comes amid ongoing controversy about infections at the hospital, with Sarwar claiming these had been linked to more deaths.

He told Sturgeon that a case of aspergillus had been discovered in a child cancer patient who was being treated in the same ward at the same time as Andrew Slorance – a senior Scottish Government official who died last year after contracting both coronavirus and the aspergillus infection while being treated for cancer in the QEUH.

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Sarwar also said that more recently a child in the paediatric hospital acquired a waterborne infection like the one linked to the death of schoolgirl Milly Main and had also died.

After raising concerns with Sturgeon at First Minister’s Questions on Thursday, the Labour leader repeated his calls for action in a letter to her, calling for both the chairman and the chief executive of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde to be removed from their posts.

Sarwar told her: “You must sack the chairman and chief executive at NHSGCC, sack the oversight board and put the hospital under direct ministerial control.

“More families should not have to pay the price for your government failing to do the right thing.”

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In his letter to Sturgeon, the Scottish Labour leader recalled that previous health secretary Shona Robison had placed NHS Tayside into “special measures”, with the health board chief executive and chair both replaced, amid concerns over improper use of funds.

Sarwar told the First Minister: “My concern is that while your government has seen fit to use these powers over financial mismanagement, you are unwilling to act when they could save lives.”

He insisted: “People are still dying from preventable hospital-acquired infections.

“A culture of bullying and intimidation at the board continues to leave staff fearful of speaking out.

“The leadership at the health board, and the oversight board put in place by your government, have failed.”

Sturgeon has already told the Scottish Labour leader that “sacking a health board does not change overnight the practice in a hospital”.

She stated: “When concerns are raised about the cause of someone’s death, then that has to be properly investigated so that the action that is then taken as a result of that is the right action.”

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While she accepted “these are serious matters”, the First Minister stressed: “We do not do justice to the families concerned if we simply call for action that is not based on proper investigation, proper scrutiny and proper consideration.”

A spokesperson for NHSGGC said: “In the past 24 hours, the QEUH/RHC and specifically the treatment provided to our patients has continued to be called into question.

“Hearing such speculation and allegations has been extremely difficult for our staff and patients alike.”

The spokesperson said the continued claims to be made that NHSGGC is failing to be transparent across all areas of patient care and building safety is “of serious concern”.

“We are deeply saddened by the way in which the commitment and working practices of our staff at the QEUH and RHC are being portrayed,” they added.

“However, it is important that we are not complacent and, when issues or concerns are raised, we will continue to address them in a constructive and robust manner.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The First Minister has received Mr Sarwar’s letter and will respond in due course.

“As NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde have made it clear, infection control procedures at the QEUH are rigorous and of the highest standard.

“The Scottish Government has engaged with the health board to ensure that the concerns raised are properly investigated and resolved.”


World Health Organisation say new Covid strain ‘variant of concern’

The organisation, which has named the variant Omicron, said the strain has an increased risk of reinfection.

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Variant: WHO say new strain of coronavirus is a 'variant of concern'.

A new strain of coronavirus that has reached Belgium after being discovered in South Africa has been designated a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organisation.

The WHO warned that preliminary evidence suggests the variant, which the organisation named Omicron, has an increased risk of reinfection and may spread more rapidly than other strains.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said there is “huge international concern” surrounding the strain after banning flights from South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia to limit its spread.

He told MPs there are concerns the variant may be more transmissible, make vaccines less effective and may affect one of the UK’s Covid treatments, Ronapreve.

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Ministers were facing calls to go further to prevent a wave of Omicron arriving in Britain while a Delta surge is ongoing, as Belgium became the first EU country to announce a case.

Professor John Edmunds, who advises the Government as part of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), warned that could create a “very, very, very difficult situation”.

The EU, US and Canada all followed Britain’s move to impose travel restrictions on visitors from southern Africa ahead of the WHO adding the strain, also known as B.1.1.529, to its highest category for concerning variants.

Experts at the WHO said there is early evidence to suggest Omicron has an “increased risk of reinfection” and its rapid spread in South Africa suggests it has a “growth advantage”.

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No cases have been detected in the UK but its arrival in Belgium – after being found in Botswana, Hong Kong and Israel – has heightened concerns.

Marc Van Ranst, a virologist at the Rega Institute in Belgium, said a sample was confirmed as the variant in a traveller who returned from Egypt on November 11 before first showing symptoms 11 days later.

The six African countries were added to the UK’s travel red list on Thursday evening and passengers arriving in the UK from these countries from 4am on Sunday will be required to book and pay for a Government-approved hotel quarantine for ten days.

Downing Street urged anyone who has arrived from those countries recently to get tested.

Javid said discussions are ongoing over the prospect of adding further countries to the red list, telling the Commons the Government “won’t hesitate to act if we need to do so”.

Boris Johnson held a call with South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa on Friday afternoon after foreign minister Naledi Pandor said the flight ban “seems to have been rushed”.

The Prime Minister “commended South Africa’s rapid genomic sequencing” and its “leadership in transparently sharing scientific data”, Downing Street said.

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“They discussed the challenges posed globally by the new Covid-19 variant and ways to work together to deal with it and reopen international travel,” a statement said.

Prof Edmunds said the new strain “is a huge worry” and that “all the data suggests” it would be able to evade current immunity.

“Our fears are it would do so to a large extent,” he told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme.

Prof Edmunds urged ministers to look at extending travel restrictions and to prepare a plan to deal with Omicron because “at some point we’re going to get this variant here in the UK”.

He suggested mass testing and local restrictions must be looked at while other preparations could include making the booster programme more rapid, perhaps by reducing the gap between second and third doses, and widening it to younger age groups.

“Even the vaccines don’t work particularly well against this new variant, they do against Delta, and we’re still fighting a Delta wave and we certainly don’t want to be fighting both at the same time,” he said.

“There are things we can do and we need to get on with it very rapidly.”

South African scientists fear the variant is behind a dramatic rise in cases in some regions, including Gauteng province, which includes the cities of Pretoria and Johannesburg.

Pfizer/BioNTech, which has produced a vaccine against Covid-19, is already studying the new variant’s ability to evade vaccines.

Experts have said vaccines can be tweaked to tackle new variants as they emerge.


Scotland face Ukraine in World Cup play-off semi-final

Steve Clarke’s side will face Wales or Austria in the final if they win.

Craig Williamson via SNS Group
Six consecutive wins earned Scotland a play-off place and a home draw in the semis.

Scotland have been drawn to play Ukraine in the World Cup play-off semi-final next year.

If the national side win that match at Hampden, they will play the winner of Wales v Austria for a place at the World Cup finals in Qatar next year.

The final will be played in Wales or Austria.

The play-off draw was conducted at FIFA headquarters on Friday and manager Steve Clarke and his players now know exactly what stands between them and a first World Cup appearance since 1998.

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Scotland finished second in their qualification group to earn a play-off place, winning their last six matches to finish ahead of Israel and Austria and securing seeded status as one of the best runners-up.

As seeds, the team were guaranteed a home draw for the semi-final on March 24, with Hampden expected to be a sell-out for the match.

The final will be played on March 29.

Ukraine

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Ukraine were unbeaten in the group stage and faced France twice without defeat but they only won two of their matches (against Bosnia-Herzegovina and Finland), drawing the other six games and failing to beat Kazakhstan in either match.

The Euro 2020 quarter-finalists have only won six of their last 18 games but seem to have a knack of getting a result when it matters.

Oleksandr Petrakov is in temporary charge after Andriy Shevchenko quit in August and has an experienced squad to draw upon, with a core of Ukraine-based players supplemented by players from top sides, including Manchester City’s Oleksandr Zinchenko and West Ham’s Andriy Yarmalenko.


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