Omicron variant sweeps Scotland

As of Wednesday 1 December, there are now ten reported omicron cases in Scotland, a rise of one from five in Lancashire and four in the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde area reported on Tuesday. 

During her announcement on Tuesday, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon identified the nine individuals as being linked to a single private event that was held on 20 November. 

It is currently unknown whether the more recently uncovered case is also linked to the same private event. 

Variant B. 1. 1. 529, named omicron after the fifteenth letter of the Greek alphabet, was designated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) just last Friday 26 November to be a variant of concern. 

As stated by United Kingdom Health Secretary Sajid Javid, not much will be known about this variant until a few weeks’ time. 

The WHO writes on their website that its transmissibility, or severity of disease is unknown. 

However, worries arose after the Chief Executive Officer of Moderna Therapeutics Stéphane Bancel’s interview with the Financial Times revealed that he was doubtful about the existing vaccine’s efficacy against the new variant. 

The UK has reported 32 cases of the omicron variant (as of Wednesday 1 December) and in response have made face coverings compulsory in England in shops, banks, post offices, hairdressers, and public transport starting from 4am Tuesday 30 November. 

In addition, it will now be compulsory that travellers arriving in the country take a PCR test on or before day two and go into self-isolation until a conclusive negative test result is received. 

A further ten countries were added to the red travel list on 27 November, the countries being: Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. 

Sturgeon has also added that she believes more travel bans may be put into place due to the new variant. 

Due to the outbreak of this new variant, various international students at the University of Edinburgh have cancelled their plane tickets back home for Christmas, with the situation remaining unclear as to what the self-isolation guidelines will look like on their return. 

With students planning to head to Europe to enjoy winter sports this festive season, one student voiced his concern to The Student

“I was planning to go skiing with my family and friends in Switzerland but as they have imposed the new ten-day quarantine rule, I’ve had to refund my ticket. 

“We’ve been able to turn around our holiday to France, but who knows really? Plans could fall through at any second.” 

Another student planning to spend her New Year in Milan said: 

“It’s such a shame. Just as we thought things were getting better, things are heading for the worse.” 

Image via Central Coast Community News