United Kingdom

FM says closing border would be ‘last resort’ after Omicron variant found in England

MORE restrictions on travel may be needed to combat the threat posed by the new Omicron variant of coronavirus, Nicola Sturgeon has warned, adding that closing the border with England would be a “last resort”.

The First Minister spoke out as new travel restrictions were imposed by the UK Government after two cases of the new Covid-19 strain were confirmed in England.

Scotland will also impose the travel restrictions, which will see all passengers arriving in the UK required to take a PCR test and remain in isolation until they receive a negative result. That will apply to everyone, regardless of their vaccination status.

Cross Border travel between Scotland and England was banned earlier in the pandemic with people only allowed to make journeys for essential reasons such as health care, work or caring duties.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon warns Omicron variant may delay second independence referendum

While no cases of the Omicron variant have been confirmed in Scotland as yet, Sturgeon warned that further travel restrictions may be necessary.

Speaking on the BBC‘s Andrew Marr Show this morning she said: “There are no cases identified in Scotland yet that I know of; clearly that is a moving picture.”

She added: “We have stepped up surveillance, we are monitoring this very, very carefully.

“I hope we don’t identify cases in Scotland but I think we should assume we will. Therefore, I am asking people to behave right now as if this new variant is present in Scotland, comply with all the mitigations and protections that are currently in place, pick up our compliance, and that will help us, if it is here, slow down any risk of transmission.”

While she stressed the need for a “proportionate response” to this latest development in the pandemic, Sturgeon added: “I think we may have to go further on restricting travel in the days to come.

“I hope I am wrong about that, but we must keep our minds open to that.”

Asked about closing the Border with England, she added: “That is a question I have been asked repeatedly including possibly by you over the past two years. It’s very difficult you know as well as I do the nature of the Border between Scotland and England.

“There are the flows across the Border. We will do everything we can. We have at times in the pandemic previously advised against travel across the England-Scotland Border, that is always a last resort.”   

She also refused to rule out another ban on indoor mixing between households, although she was clear that “none of us want to go back” to those kind of restrictions.

“We’ve lived with this now for almost two years, we are all sick and tired of it,” she said.

But she continued: “I’m not going to sit here, 48 hours on from the detection of a variant of this virus that may be even faster transmitting than Delta – and Delta was faster transmitting than anything that came before – that may escape vaccines to some extent, I’m not going to sit and rule anything out.

“But that does not mean to say I want to be in a position of imposing these kinds of protections again; none of us want to be in that position.”

Her comments came after Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said the confirmation of cases of the Omicron variant in England are “a stark reminder that we must not drop our guard”.

He added: “No cases have yet been detected in Scotland, but the fact this new variant is on our doorstep is clearly a worry and we should act as though it is already here.

“There is still much to learn about the Omicron variant. Questions remain about its severity, transmissibility and effect on treatments or vaccines and scientists are working at pace to provide additional information.

“Until more is known we must adopt the precautionary principle and do everything we can to minimise the risk of spreading infection.”
 



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