Employees in Scotland have been told to work from home where possible after six cases of the new omicron variant of Covid-19 were discovered in the country.
First minister Nicola Sturgeon urged people to work from home in a briefing this morning (29 November), stating that “employers should ensure that they are maximising home working”, and noted this “may be a fast-moving situation”.
Guidance to work from home was reiterated by Scotland’s health secretary Humza Yousaf, who said that Public Health Scotland was taking enhanced contract tracing after cases of the variant, initially discovered in South Africa last week, were found in the Lanarkshire and the Greater Glasgow and Clyde area.
Yousaf said: “Work from home where possible, take regular lateral flow tests – especially before mixing with others outside your household.
“We must now redouble our efforts to follow the basic rules that have served us well throughout the pandemic – wear a face covering on public transport and in all indoor settings for food and retail; open windows especially if you have people visiting at home; keep washing your hands regularly and thoroughly.
“There is still much to learn about the Omicron variant. Questions remain about its severity, transmissibility and response to treatments or vaccines and scientists are working at pace to provide additional information. Until more is known we must be cautious and do everything we can to minimise the risk of spreading infection.”
The UK government has stopped short of reintroducing guidance to work from home across the rest of the UK, although the Northern Ireland Executive last week emphasised advice to work from home where possible amid climbing infection rates.
Wales lifted most Covid restrictions in August, but employers are still encouraged to allow people work from home where possible. Guidance says staff should not be “required or placed under pressure to return” to workplaces unless there’s a clear business need.
Many organisations have begun rethinking their working arragements and plans for Christmas parties in light of the variant’s arrival.
At the time of publication nine Omicron cases had been identified in the UK: six in Scotland and three in England.