Scottish Health Secretary says more Covid restrictions ‘inevitable’ in worrying omen to UK

Scottish health Secretary says more Covid restrictions ‘inevitable’

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Humza Yousaf appeared on BBC Good Morning Scotland ahead of a crucial press conference this week which will see Nicola Sturgeon give an update on coronavirus restrictions. The Scottish Government has been fiercely debating whether to introduce further limits on freedoms to curb the spread of the Omicron variant with trade unions suggesting schools could close early to prevent the strain spreading among pupils. Mr Yousaf showed great resistance to shutting down schools, but when pushed on if other rules could be introduced soon the SNP minister said it was extremely likely.

Speaking on Good Morning Scotland, presenter Gary Robertson spoke with Mr Yousaf about the coronavirus pandemic with Nicola Sturgeon expected to address the country on Tuesday.

General Secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) trade union, Larry Flanagan, has called for the early closure of Scottish schools to curb the spread of the Omicron variant.

Proposals are calling for schools to close this Friday instead of next week to prevent pupils from becoming spreaders of the new variant.

Mr Yousaf and Ms Sturgeon have shown resistance to closing schools with the First Minister saying she would “bust a gut” to keep them open.

The Scottish Health Secretary remarked his own children were severely disrupted by the closure of schools throughout the pandemic and resisted closing them.

Mr Yousaf was then asked if the Scottish Government would consider closing the schools on Friday instead of Wednesday next week.

He explained: “So that’s absolutely a good question to pose and again the Government will consider that.

“But there is actually, as we know, not just educational disruption potentially, we know the effect that lockdowns and previous restrictions have had on people’s mental health…

“The First Minister will give that update tomorrow, we will do everything we possibly can to keep schools open.

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Mr Robertson then asked if Scotland should be “braced” for more restrictions with the announcement on Tuesday.

He replied: “So I think it’s inevitable that we will announce additional protective measures.

“Again, I would be reluctant to get into detail on that because we’re working through that detail with the First Minister and we will update parliament.

“But it’s really important that we try to do this with as much support from the Treasury which hasn’t been forthcoming thus far.

“Because we know that, of course, already there’s been an impact on businesses through some of the advice that’s been issued.

“So it’d be helpful if the Treasury was able to confirm support, which hasn’t been forthcoming thus far…

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“But yes, we are looking at protective measures and the First Minister will announce more details of that tomorrow.”

Scotland and Wales kept mandatory mask-wearing after the UK Government dropped the advice in England in July.

Wales has also been using the NHS Covid app to prove vaccination or a negative lateral flow test within 48 hours to allow access to large events.

The UK Government is set to vote in these proposals for England on Tuesday with a separate vote on mask-wearing also scheduled for that day.

The Scottish Government’s handling of the pandemic often runs parallel with the UK Government’s albeit with more caution.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid has stressed the importance of coming forward for the booster programme to make sure Christmas can go ahead as planned.

Mr Javid was unable to tell reporters how many people have died from the Omicron variant, citing a lag in the data, but said there were 10 people in hospital with the variant currently.

Ms Sturgeon said during a press conference last Friday that she predicts Omicron will be the dominant variant in Scotland in a matter of “days, not weeks”.

Currently, it is suggested around 100 cases of the variant have been reported in Scotland but the actual figure could be more than seven times that amount.

Ms Sturgeon said: “Omicron right now is rising exponentially, indeed what we are seeing in the data just now is perhaps the fastest exponential growth that we have seen in this pandemic so far.

“If that continues, and we have no reason, at this stage, to believe that it won’t, Omicron is going to very quickly overtake Delta as the dominant strain in Scotland.”

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