Omicron variant ‘galloping’ through Scotland, says Swinney

Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Covid Recovery John Swinney told how Omicron is doubling faster than any other variant.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney (Colin Fisher/PA)
Deputy First Minister John Swinney (Colin Fisher/PA)

All options are on the table for tackling the rise of the Omicron variant, Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Covid Recovery John Swinney said.

Speaking on the BBC’s The Sunday Show, Mr Swinney said: “Fundamentally we face a very serious threat because Omicron is frankly galloping its way in Scotland and circulating round our communities.

“The challenge for us is that obviously nobody would thank us if we planned on the best case scenario and it turned out to be the worst case scenario that prevails.”

I am very troubled by the idea that everybody thinks or it is perceived that Omicron is a mild variant of the virus

Deputy First Minister John Swinney

However Mr Swinney refused to be drawn on measures such as closing down hotels, cafes, bars and restaurants.

Show host Martin Geissler asked: “If you had the funds to do it, would you be inclined to shut down the hospitality sector tomorrow?”

Mr Swinney said: “I don’t think there is a justification, we have to make sure that all of our measures are proportionate.”

Scottish Labour’s health and Covid recovery spokesperson Jackie Baillie said: “Businesses up and down the country aren’t just dreading the effects of the new variant, they are already feeling them.

“The latest advice is leading to parties being cancelled and bookings plummeting, but the hospitality industry is being left high and dry.

They need to support businesses and protect jobs through this crisis

Scottish Labour’s Jackie Baillie

“Thousands of jobs are on the line but the SNP don’t seem to be listening.

“We should never shy away from difficult decisions to save lives, but we can’t destroy livelihoods in the process.

“Whether there are new restrictions or not, the SNP’s strategy cannot rely on hospitality taking the hit.

“They need to support businesses and protect jobs through this crisis.”

Mr Swinney said: “Restrictions are the last thing we want to do because that begins to inhibit the ability of people and businesses to operate normally as we would want them to operate.

“I am very troubled by the idea that everybody thinks or it is perceived that Omicron is a mild variant of the virus, that to me is actually quite irrelevant.

In the space of a week Omicron has changed from being 2% of cases in Scotland to yesterday 18%

John Swinney

“If the cases rise exponentially, as we fear and as our modelling has suggested might be the case.

“The problem we have got here, and the First Minister made this point on Friday in her media briefing, is that even if there is a small level of hospitalisation of a very, very big number of infections in our society, that will overwhelm our NHS.

“And that is the blunt reality.

“In the space of a week Omicron has changed from being 2% of cases in Scotland to yesterday 18%.

“The doubling rate is just more than two days and that compares to earlier variants of the virus which were closer to 14 days.

“On Friday there were more than 60,000 vaccinations, in Scotland we are the most vaccinated part of the UK, we should be looking at how we can accelerate the pace.”

The latest statistics show 38 more Omicron cases have been confirmed in Scotland, taking the total to 159.

There were 4,002 coronavirus cases in total reported in the last 24 hours, with no new deaths.

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