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Warning that travel curbs ‘may need further tightening’

Scotland’s first minister has warned that travel curbs may need to be tightened further in the coming days due to the Omicron Covid variant.

Ten countries in southern Africa have been added to the travel red list due to concerns about the new variant, with PCR tests for all incoming travellers.

But Nicola Sturgeon said she thought more action may be needed amid concerns about the new variant.

She told the BBC prior to six cases being identified in Scotland that “we must be open minded to doing anything” to keep people safe.

People travelling into the UK from any destination will have to take a PCR test by the end of the second day after arrival, and self-isolate until they get a negative result, from 4am on Tuesday.

And everyone who comes into contact with a case of Omicron will have to self-isolate, even if they have had both vaccine doses.

An urgent meeting of G7 health ministers under the UK presidency will be convened today (Monday) to discuss the developments on Omicron.

Health secretary Sajid Javid said the UK “could not have acted more swiftly” in response to the new variant.

Sturgeon also told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show that rules were being introduced “as quickly as possible”, but added: “I think we may need to go further in restricting travel in the days to come. I hope I’m wrong, but we must keep our minds open to that.”

Asked if this might mean new restrictions on travel between Scotland and England, she said this would be a “last resort” but added: “We need to be open-minded to doing anything to keep the population safe.”

Two cases have been identified in England, and while Ms Sturgeon said she was not aware of any in Scotland yet, she warned it was a “moving picture”.

She said: “We have stepped up surveillance and are monitoring this very carefully.

“I hope we don’t identify cases in Scotland but I think we should assume that we will, therefore I am asking people to behave now as if that new variant is in Scotland.

“Comply with all the mitigations and precautions that are currently in place, pick up our compliance and that will help us, if it is here, slow down any risk of transmission.”

Meanwhile, everyone who enters Wales from abroad will need to take a PCR test and isolate pending a negative result.

 The Welsh government announced the move after new restrictions for England were announced on Saturday by prime minister Boris Johnson.

 It came as the Omicron variant was detected in Brentwood, Essex, and Nottingham.

The Welsh government said it was a “serious development”, and ministers were meeting over the weekend to discuss whether further action was needed.

A Welsh government spokesperson told the BBC: “The emergence of this new variant is a serious development in the ongoing pandemic and reinforces the need for everyone in Wales to get their vaccine or booster when offered, wear face coverings when necessary, and book a test if they develop symptoms.

“We have repeatedly raised our concerns with the UK government about its decision to relax international travel rules quickly, precisely because of the risk of introducing new variants into the UK.”

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