Scotland will adopt new border restrictions introduced by the UK Government after two cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant were detected in England, Health Secretary Humza Yousaf has said.
The two linked cases have been found in Nottingham and Brentwood, Essex, and are believed to have been contracted in southern Africa.
No cases of the new variant have been confirmed in Scotland to date.
Scientists have said they are concerned about the B.1.1.529 variant as it has around 30 different mutations – which is double the number present in the Delta variant.
Mr Yousaf said confirmation of the Omicron cases in the UK are “a stark reminder that we must not drop our guard”.
Following discussions with UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid and the other devolved administrations, he said Scotland is aligning with the new border restrictions being introduced by the UK Government which will require fully vaccinated arrivals to take a PCR test within two days of arrival and to self-isolate until a negative result is received.
He said the measures will be introduced “as soon as possible” and kept under constant review.
The Scottish Government will also adopt the expanded red list of countries identified by the UK Government.
South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Eswatini have moved to Scotland’s red list as of Saturday, and Angola, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia will move to the country’s red list from 4am on Sunday.
“No cases have yet been detected in Scotland,” Mr Yousaf said, “But the fact this new variant is on our doorstep is clearly a worry and we should act as though it is already here.”
He urged Scots to redouble their efforts in protecting themselves against Covid, adding: “There is still much to learn about the Omicron variant.
“Questions remain about its severity, transmissibility and effect on treatments or vaccines, and scientists are working at pace to provide additional information.
“Until more is known we must adopt the precautionary principle and do everything we can to minimise the risk of spreading infection.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted that “we all have a part to play in beating” the Omicron variant.
She posted: “There are no confirmed cases of Omicron in (Scotland) yet, but we MUST act as if it’s already here. @scotgov is introducing new requirements for travellers, but we all have a part to play in beating this new threat.
“So wear (masks), wash hands, get vaccines & test before socialising.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned the new variant could reduce the effectiveness of vaccines, as he announced the strengthening of Covid rules at a Downing Street press conference on Saturday evening.
As well as the new rules for travellers, masks will now again become mandatory in shops and on public transport in England, which is already the case in Scotland, and contacts of Omicron Covid cases will have to self-isolate.
Mr Yousaf added: “Throughout the pandemic people in Scotland have been amazing in doing everything possible to get cases down, to protect ourselves, each other and the NHS, and in taking up the offer of a vaccine.
“We must now redouble our efforts to follow the basic rules that have served us well so far in 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.
“Work from home where possible, take regular lateral flow tests and behave sensibly.
“If you have symptoms, self-isolate and take a test.”
He urged anyone who is unvaccinated or is yet to receive their second dose to book an appointment now.
“If you are over 40, you can book your booster jab for six months after your second vaccine dose – please do so,” he added.
“As we head into winter we are facing an as yet unknown risk from this new variant. Let’s once again rise to the challenge and do everything we can to keep everyone safe.”
Earlier, the Scottish Government announced 17 coronavirus-linked deaths and 2,287 new cases had been recorded in the past 24 hours.
It means the death toll under this daily measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – is now 9,562.
The daily test positivity rate was 8.2%, down from 9.1% the previous day.
There were 53 people in intensive care on Friday with recently confirmed Covid-19, down seven on the day before, and 727 people were in hospital with the virus.
So far, 4,344,043 people have received their first dose of a vaccination, 3,945,451 have had their second, and 1,598,749 have received a third dose or booster.