Sturgeon to urge Scots to ‘redouble’ Covid efforts after emergence of Omicron

Nicola Sturgeon will urge Scots to redouble their efforts in the fight against Coronavirus – saying doing this will help “maximise” the chances of having a “more normal Christmas”.

Cases of the new Omicron strain have already been detected in the UK – although not in Scotland.

The virtual speech is expected to cover ground on the economy and independence, but Sturgeon will use the appearance of a new strain of the Covid virus to emphasis her efforts to tackle the pandemic.

Closing the SNP’s four-day conference, she will urge everyone in Scotland to think afresh about the basic steps they can take to protect themselves and others.

Omicron was first reported in South Africa, but cases have been detected in countries across the world, including Australia, Germany, Israel and Hong Kong.

Ten countries in southern Africa have been added to the travel red list in response. It is believed that all overseas travellers arriving into the UK from 04:00 on Tuesday will need to take a PCR test.

Ms Sturgeon will warn her party members that “there are big and very real challenges ahead over the winter months”, with the Omicron variant “causing profound concern”.

With the Omicron strain “causing profound concern here and across the world”, Sturgeon will tell supporters and people across Scotland: “We must not drop our guard. This is a time to be more vigilant, not less.”

While her speech will cover issues ranging from Scotland’s public services, the economy and the country’s constitutional future, the SNP leader will also use it as an opportunity to make clear her top priority at the moment is leading the country through the pandemic.

That comes despite infection levels in Scotland having been “stable”, if not “declining slightly”, in recent weeks.

She will state: “To be frank, that’s a much better position than I had dared hope for a couple of months ago.”

Despite this she will warn Scotland faces “big and very real challenges ahead over the winter months”.

Ms Sturgeon will say: “Cases are rising in countries all around us. We know that colder weather, forcing us indoors, coupled with festive socialising will create increased opportunities for the virus to spread.”

She will tell the conference that the new variant of Covid has led the Scottish Government to impose tighter restrictions at the borders, adding the fact that “none of this was even contemplated just a few days ago, is a reminder of how fast this virus can move and change”.

The First Minister will tell people: “We must, all of us, therefore, redouble our efforts to stop it in its tracks. The good news is that we know how to do that. We’ve done it before. Over these next weeks of winter, we need to pull together and look after each other.”

She is expected to add: “I promise that the government will do our job. Steering the country through this winter is my priority – it is my duty.

“But no government can fight a virus alone – we all need to play our part. That was true before the detection of Omicron, and it is even more so now.

“If all of us increase our compliance with the protections already in place, we will help slow transmission.”

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