The Scottish Government has set a target of offering booster jabs to all eligible adults by the end of the year, but more Covid-19 restrictions may still be needed to combat Omicron, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
The First Minister said “urgent efforts” are being made to accelerate the booster programme, with over-30s able to book appointments from Monday and 18-29-year-olds in the following days.
She said her government’s aim is to offer a “booster jag appointment to all eligible adults by the end of this year if possible”.
Her comments followed an address to the nation from Prime Minister Boris Johnson in which he said there is “a tidal wave of Omicron coming”.
Ms Sturgeon said that “given the expected volume of cases in the weeks ahead” it is also possible that “further, proportionate protective measures or advice will be necessary”.
“This is true even if Omicron proves to be slightly less severe than Delta,” she added.
The Scottish cabinet is due to meet on Tuesday morning ahead of a coronavirus statement from Ms Sturgeon in the Scottish Parliament in the afternoon.
In England, those under the age of 30 will be able to book a booster appointment from Wednesday, but Mr Johnson said “in some cases you can walk in from tomorrow”.
Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said the Scottish Government was “working with health boards to maximise vaccination capacity” and accelerate the vaccination programme.
He added that Scotland has the highest vaccination rate of UK nations for first, second and third doses and urged people to test regularly before socialising due to the emergence of the Omicron variant.
The latest statistics show 38 more Omicron cases have been confirmed in Scotland, taking the total to 159.
There were 4,002 coronavirus cases in total reported in the last 24 hours, with no new deaths.
In the space of a week Omicron has changed from being 2% of cases in Scotland to yesterday 18%John Swinney
Speaking earlier on the BBC’s The Sunday Show, Deputy First Minister John Swinney said the variant is “frankly galloping its way into Scotland and circulating around our communities”.
He said the Scottish Government was looking at the expansion of vaccine passports and other restrictions, but stressed new measures should be “proportionate”.
Mr Swinney added: “The problem we have got here, and the First Minister made this point on Friday in her media briefing, is even if there is a small level of hospitalisation of a very, very big number of infections in our society, that will overwhelm our national health service.
“In the space of a week Omicron has changed from being 2% of the cases in Scotland to yesterday 18% of the cases.
“So the doubling rate is about just over two days and that compares to earlier variants of the virus which were closer to 14 days.”
Opposition parties have warned of the threat to pubs, cafes and other hospitality businesses from new restrictions.
Scottish Labour’s health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said: “Businesses up and down the country aren’t just dreading the effects of the new variant – they are already feeling them.
“The latest advice is leading to parties being cancelled and bookings plummeting, but the hospitality industry is being left high and dry.”
On Sunday, Scotland’s chief medical officer Gregor Smith joined his counterparts in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in recommending an increase in the UK Covid alert level from Level 3 to 4.
In a joint statement, they said the emergence of Omicron “adds additional and rapidly increasing risk to the public and healthcare services”.
They added: “Early evidence shows that Omicron is spreading much faster than Delta and that vaccine protection against symptomatic disease from Omicron is reduced.
“Data on severity will become clearer over the coming weeks but hospitalisations from Omicron are already occurring and these are likely to increase rapidly.”