First Ministers of Wales and Scotland write to Johnson demanding action on Omicron variant
The First Ministers of Wales and Scotland have written to Boris Johnson demanding he take action to tackle the spread of the new Omicron variant of Covid-19.
Mark Drakeford and Nicola Sturgeon have made a number of demands, including that he introduce much tighter restrictions on international travel, as concerns about the variant continues to grow.
The new variant was first reported in South Africa last Wednesday and the early evidence suggests it has a higher re-infection risk and it is also feared the vaccines could be less effective against it. Although partially or fully jabbed people were less likely to be become seriously ill.
Experts have warned that it appears to spread “very rapidly” and that it can be spread between people who are double vaccinated.
The letter asks that an urgent Cobra meeting be held so the latest scientific information is shared. It also asks that PCR tests be reintroduced on day 8 of a traveller’s return to the UK alongside the ‘day 2’ requirement already announced.
The First Ministers want confirmation devolved financial business support schemes will be funded by the Treasury in the event “more interventionist measures” are required.
The letter says: “The emergence of Omicron poses a potential threat to the UK. It is clear that the strain is already here and that it appears highly transmissible.
“We need to work collectively – and effectively – as Four Nations to take all reasonable steps to control the ingress of the virus to the country and then to limit its spread. We are clear that a four nations approach to issues such as border restrictions is the most effective approach.
“This requires that a meeting of the COBRA committee be held as soon as possible.
“We would wish to use that opportunity to see the latest evidence from UK Government health professionals on the variant and to understand the international picture along with the implications that it might have for the UK.
“In particular, we believe the reinstatement of a requirement for a ‘day 8’ PCR test for travellers arriving into the UK – alongside the ‘day 2’ requirement already announced, and thereby requiring isolation for that whole period – is now necessary. Public health advice is unequivocal that this is the best and safest way to protect against the importation of this variant to the fullest extent possible.”
‘Work hard to minimise’
It adds: “While our public health systems work hard to minimise the spread of cases already in the UK, it is imperative that we do all we can to avoid under-cutting these efforts by permitting on-going importation.
“We also wish to confirm that devolved financial business support schemes will be funded by the Treasury in the event more interventionist measures are required to respond to the public health situation.
“In our view, it would be better to consider this now, in advance of a potential escalation in the seriousness of the situation, to support effective planning. In particular, it is important for us to agree that if the conditions in a devolved nation were to require more significant interventions than in England, the agreed package of financial support would be available to that nation. We do not want to be in a position again where our public health interventions are negatively impacted by a lack of financial support, but can be switched on as required for England.
“Given the public interest in our working together to achieve the strongest possible response to this threat, this letter is being made public.”