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Omicron: Scottish and Welsh governments demand Boris Johnson increases number of self-isolation days for travellers

The Scottish and Welsh government have urged Downing Street to bring in “tougher” travel rules to tackle the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 across the UK.

Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon said she and Welsh counterpart Mark Drakeford had written to Boris Johnson to demand a “tightening” of rules so all arrivals in UK have to self-isolate for eight days.

The SNP leader and Welsh Labour leader have also requested that arrivals take a PCR test on day eight as well as day two. “It would be sensible .... for these travel rules to be tightened further,” said Ms Sturgeon.

The first minister said tougher rules would be “more effective” in identifying Omicron cases, adding: “Anything less than a four nations approach will be ineffective – we hope a four nations approach can be agreed.”

In their joint letter to Downing Street, Ms Sturgeon and Mr Drakeford also called on Mr Johnson to immediately convene a Cobra meeting so talks could be held with representatives from the four nations on Monday.

Were the plan proposed by Ms Sturgeon and Mr Drakeford adopted, it would extend the minimum length of self-isolation for arrivals in the UK from just a couple of hours to eight days.

Scotland has not found any evidence to suggest that community transmission of the Omicron variant of Covid is either sustained or widespread, after six cases were found in the country.

The Scottish government had said earlier on Monday that the new cases not linked to international travel, raising concerns that the new coronavirus variant is already spreading in the community.

“Let me stress there is no evidence yet that this is sustained, nor any evidence from the enhanced surveillance that it is widespread at this stage,” Ms Sturgeon said in her news conference.

Ms Sturgeon asked Scots to “significantly step up and increase compliance” with existing precautions – asking the public to take a lateral flow test before mixing with people from other households.

Taking a different tack from Mr Johnson’s ministers south of the border, she also urged Scots to work from home if possible, and urged employers in Scotland to “maximise” home working.

The SNP chief said it was unlikely but not impossible that cases of the Omicron variant were linked to the recent Cop26 conference in Glasgow. “If you consider the timelines of Cop, it is not impossible – but it’s perhaps also not probable.”

The top scientists advising the UK government are set to unveil new guidance on extending the rollout of Covid booster shots to younger adults on Monday, junior health minister Edward Argar confirmed earlier today.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has been asked to consider boosters for under-40s, as well as reducing the gap between second doses and boosters. “We’d expect that within the coming hours,” said Mr Argar.