Scotland and Wales prepare for stricter Covid restrictions as omicron ‘tsunami’ looms

Tigher rules are “likely” in Wales, the country’s health minister said, while Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon warned “further, proportionate protective measures” may be announced as soon as Monday despite an acceleration of the booster jab programme.

The Welsh and Scottish governments are preparing for tougher new Covid restrictions in a bid to ward of a “tsunami” of cases of the omicron variant.

Ms Sturgeon said her government’s aim was to offer a third vaccine dose to all adults by the end of the year as part of “urgent efforts” to stem the spread of the new varian.

It comes as Boris Johnson urged Britons “to get boosted now” UK faces a “tidal wave” of omicron infections, with cases doubling every two or three days.

Ms Sturgeon said “given the expected volume of cases in the weeks ahead” it was possible “further, proportionate protective measures or advice will be necessary”.

“This is true even if omicron proves to be slightly less severe than delta,” she added.

“The number of cases will still put significant pressure on the NHS and the economy. The government will therefore consider the latest data tomorrow ahead of a cabinet meeting on Tuesday and I will set out any decisions to parliament later that day.”

The Scottish cabinet is due to meet on Tuesday morning ahead of a coronavirus statement from Ms Sturgeon in the Scottish parliament in the afternoon.

It comes as the health secretary, Humza Yousaf, confirmed today that coronavirus booster jabs are to be made available to people aged 18-39 in Scotland from next week.

Ms Sturgeon previously warned that Scotland faces a “tsunami” of coronavirus cases due to the omicron variant.

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.

Eluned Morgan, the Welsh health minister, said the government wanted “to act proportionately” as there were only around 15 cases of the new omicron strain, but that figure was likely to “change very quickly in a very short space of time”.

“We’ve got over 500 cases per 100,000 which means that Delta is still alive and well within our communities,” Ms Morgan told the BBC’s Politics Wales programme.

“At the same time as we’re facing this likely tsunami that is going to hit us fairly soon.”

The minister said “no decisions” had been made yet on what future restrictions could look like.

“The last thing we want to do is to impose the kind of restrictions that we saw last Christmas unless we absolutely have to,” she said.

“We know that last Christmas was really disappointing for so many people. That’s not where we want to be, but we will always act in the best interests of the people of Wales.”

In last Friday’s three-week review, first minister Mark Drakeford announced reviews would now take place weekly due to the threat posed by the Omicron variant. He also urged the Welsh public to get a booster vaccination.

“This is a fast-moving form of coronavirus, which has the potential to cause a large wave of infections in Wales,” he said.

“This could lead to large numbers of people needing hospital treatment at a time when our NHS is under significant pressure.

“Our best defence continues to be vaccination. Emerging evidence shows the booster dose is vital.

“We are doing everything we can to accelerate our vaccination programme to increase the number of people who will receive their booster in the coming days and weeks.”

Mr Drakeford added that the number of vaccination clinics is increasing and opening hours are also being extended.

He said: “We are facing a very serious situation and we may need to take further steps to keep Wales safe. I will continue to keep Wales updated.”

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