Omicron is now the dominant strain of coronavirus in Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon said as she warned that a “tsunami” of the variant is hitting the country.
Scotland’s first minister told a briefing that 51.4 per cent of Covid-19 cases in Scotland are likely Omicron.
She said the R number, which measures the rate of infection, could be above four and that cases of the virus have increased by more than 40 per cent in the past week.
She urged people to stay at home in the run-up to Christmas, saying the emergence of Omicron has been the “cruellest of blows”.
“The tsunami I warned about a week ago is now starting to hit us,” she said. “However, and this is a key point, a really key point actually, we shouldn’t be fatalistic about this. We are not powerless in the face of it.”
Ms Sturgeon said it “seems that boosters are still very effective in reducing the risk of falling seriously ill from Omicron”.
She said it is expected the increase in cases will “continue and accelerate”, and stressed the need to slow down the spread of the virus, adding: “As of now the scale and the immediacy of the challenge it presents is of profound concern.”
On Friday, new guidance in Scotland came into force to prevent further spread of coronavirus.
Businesses across the country are legally required to take “reasonable measures” to minimise transmission of the virus.
Advice includes a return to one-way systems in premises, app-based ordering and the use of screens at service points.
The hospitality sector has been encouraged to return to table service where practical and to consider measures to reduce crowding.
Earlier, Scotland’s economy minister, Kate Forbes, said the Scottish government is calling on the UK finance ministry to “step up and provide urgent funding” to businesses.
“I wrote to the chancellor last night and the first minister has requested talks with the prime minister – this situation is serious and we need the UK government to engage with us on further support,” she said.