UK Covid live: Scottish and Welsh governments call for eight-day quarantine for all new arrivals to UK

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LIVE – Updated at 10:53

Latest updates: health minister Edward Argar says ‘we would expect to see the number of cases rise’ as Scotland announces six Omicron cases.

Sturgeon won’t rule out link between Scottish Omicron cases and Cop26, but says it’s ‘not probable’


Sturgeon is now taking questions alongside Scotland’s chief medical officer, Gregor Smith.

Q: Are any of the Omicron cases linked to Cop26?

Sturgeon says there is no evidence of that. She says that is “not impossible”, but she also says it is “not probable”. She says, given the timing, if Omicron had been at Cop26, you would expect more to be in circulation now.



Sturgeon says she also wants a reassurance from the Treasury that it will fund any new business support schemes that need to be introduced in the light of the Omicron variant.

Scottish and Welsh governments call for eight-day quarantine for all new arrivals to UK


Sturgeon says Scotland has beefed up travel restrictions, in line with what the UK government is doing.

And she points out that, while the UK government has tightened restrictions in England, in Scotland they are already tougher.

She says the Scottish and Welsh governments both think that travel restrictions should be tougher. They think people arriving in the UK should have to isolate for eight days, with PCR tests at day eight as well as at day two (which is what is required already).

She says this will make it easier to identify new cases of Omicron coming into the UK.

And she says a UK-wide approach is needed, because new arrivals can travel freely within the four nations.

She says she and Mark Drakeford, the Welsh first minister, have written to Boris Johnson proposing this.

And she says they want Johnson to convene a four-nations emergency Cobra meeting to discuss this proposal.



Sturgeon gives details of the six cases in Scotland.

Echoing what John Swinney said earlier (see 9.38am), she says there might be community transmission.

But she says there is no evidence of “sustained” community transmission, and no evidence that it is widespread.



Sturgeon says what we do know confirms that we should take the new variant seriously, and act on a precautionary basis.

This prevents “potentially the most challenging development in the course of the pandemic for quite some time”.



Sturgeon stresses that there is “a huge amount that we do not yet know” about the variant.

The number of mutations suggest it might be more transmissible. But more data and analysis is required, and if it is more transmissible, they will have to find out by how much.

The WHO said yesterday that “preliminary evidence” suggested there was a higher risk of re-infection.

And there is no evidence yet that it is more severe, she says.



Sturgeon says they knew the winter would present real risks.

There is much they do not know about Omicron, the new variant, she says.

And she says she will set out what is known about cases in Scotland. The situation will change in the coming days, she says.

Nicola Sturgeon’s Covid briefing


Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, is holding a Covid briefing.

There is a live feed at the top of the blog.



The confirmed Omicron case in Brentwood has been linked to primary school, Essex county council has announced.

Following further contact tracing of the known Omicron Covid-19 case in Brentwood, it has been confirmed that there is a link to Larchwood Primary School based in Pilgrims Hatch.

— Essex County Council (@Essex_CC) November 29, 2021

UK Health and Security Agency, Department of Health and Social Care, Larchwood Primary School and colleagues from Essex County Council and Brentwood Council have worked together to take necessary precautionary action to prevent the spread.

— Essex County Council (@Essex_CC) November 29, 2021

This includes making specialist testing available for all pupils and school staff and confirming arrangements for remote learning for one class.

— Essex County Council (@Essex_CC) November 29, 2021

We appreciate that this is an unsettling time for parents, pupils and the school community but we take the time to remind everyone that this is a precautionary measure.

— Essex County Council (@Essex_CC) November 29, 2021

French interior minister says UK must accept its responsibilities in relation to Channel crossings


Turning away from Covid for a moment, Gérald Darmanin, the French interior minister, has restated his criticism of Boris Johnson’s handling of the Channel crossings dispute. He posted this on Twitter this morning:

Lorsque M. Johnson dit que la France doit « reprendre ses migrants », ce qu’il nous demande en réalité, c’est que la France l’exonère de toute responsabilité en matière d’accueil.

Le gouvernement britannique doit assumer ses propres responsabilités.

— Gérald DARMANIN (@GDarmanin) November 29, 2021

This translates as:

When Mr Johnson says that France must “take back its migrants”, what he is actually asking us is that France exempt him from any responsibility for reception. The British government must accept its own responsibilities.

And in his TV interview he said:

When there are serious diplomatic exchanges … and lives that are at stake … and some minutes later you see that a letter, which no one has ever mentioned before, is published on Twitter from the British prime minister to the president of the French Republic before the president of the Republic has received it, it’s a bit peculiar.

When in this letter the English say the French should ‘take back their migrants, all their migrants’, it’s a mockery.

Darmanin made similar points in an interview with my colleague Kim Willsher in which he said that, in private, British ministers were more reasonably and friendly; the provocative stuff is stuff for show, he suggests.

Related: UK’s ‘double talk’ on Channel crisis must stop, says French interior minister

Health minister defends decision not to make mask wearing compulsory in English hospitality venues


Edward Argar, the health minister for England, was doing his best to quash alarmism in his morning interviews this morning. Here are some of the key points he made.

  • Argar said that he did not expect Covid regulations for England to tighten in the next three weeks beyond what was announced by Boris Johnson on Saturday. Asked if he expected further restrictions over that period, Argar replied: “It’s not something I’m anticipating.” Johnson has said the rules will be reviewed the weekend before Christmas. Argar said he was “looking forward to a Christmas spent with family and friends”.
  • He defended the decision not to make mask wearing compulsory in hospitality venues in England. Asked to explain why they were not included in the new rules, as shops are, he replied:

It’s in the nature of the venue. In a pub, you’re drinking. You can’t do that if you’re wearing a mask. And in restaurants, you’re normally seated at your table to give your order, you stay at your table with your group of friends or your partner or whoever you’re there with, and similarly in pubs you are normally – even when you’re standing up rather than sitting down – you’re drinking.

And therefore it’s in the nature of the hospitality industry, the hospitality trade. And therefore, we think this is a proportionate and reasonable way to put in a precaution to give us that time to better understand this variant by slowing down the seeding and the spreading of it.

Labour has implied that mask-wearing should be compulsory in hospitality venues. Angela Rayner, the deputy party leader, told Sky News this morning:

We think that in hospitality settings that people should be wearing a mask … Especially if you’re moving around the pub, people should be wearing their masks in hospitality settings. If you’re [in] an indoor setting, there’s no distinction between a pub, sitting in a pub, or sitting on a train, or sitting in a hospital. It’s still a venue that’s indoors and we should be taking the necessary measures to protect people around us.

  • Argar said that he was confident test and trace would be able to meet the challenge posed by the Omicron variant. He said:

We’re confident that test and trace can meet this challenge.

And just by way of an example, I think 91% of contacts, where they’re given by someone who tests positive at the moment, are being reached and contacted within the appropriate time. So it has come a long, long way from when it was first set up. And I’m confident it will be able to scale up and meet the challenge.

UK Covid live: Scottish and Welsh governments call for eight-day quarantine for all new arrivals to UK
© Provided by The Guardian Edward Argar. Photograph: ITV/Rex/Shutterstock

Health minister says more cases of Omicron expected to be confirmed in England


Good morning. So far there have been only three confirmed cases of the new Omicron variant found in England. But this morning the Scottish government announced that it has six confirmed cases, and Edward Argar, the UK government health minister (which means health minister for England, in practice) told the Today programme that more cases will be confirmed south of the border. Asked if he was expecting more cases to be confirmed in England, he said yes. He went on:

We’ve seen three confirmed cases in England. But I think we’ve been clear since we first knew about this new variant that we would expect to see the number of cases rise. And I think what we’re seeing in Scotland reflects that. That’s in the nature of the virus, and the likely – not certain but likely – increased transmissibility of this variant.

According to Harry Cole in the Sun, government sources say there are 75 “probable” case of Omicron in the UK – with possibly more than 150 more.

Here are the main UK Covid developments around this morning.

  • Six cases of the Covid-19 Omicron variant have been identified in Scotland, the Scottish government has announced.
  • Steve Baker, deputy chair of the Tory lockdown-sceptic Covid Recovery Group, has criticised rules saying school pupils, like other people, who are close contacts of someone testing positive with the Omicron variant will have to isolate for 10 days. He told the Telegraph this will “cause chaos including collateral harms like damage to children’s education”.

The omicron variant will lead to “chaos” in schools, MPs have warned, with children set to be forced into self-isolation by the new rules

— The Telegraph (@Telegraph) November 28, 2021

  • Prof Anthony Harnden, deputy chair of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) in the UK, has said that eventually everyone will be offered a booster vaccine, but that this has to be done “in a sensible order”.
  • Sajid Javid, the health secretary, has convened an urgent online meeting of G7 health ministers to discuss the Omicron variant.

Here is the agenda for the day.

10.30am: Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, holds a Covid briefing with Scotland’s chief medical officer, Gregor Smith.

11am: Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, gives a speech on standards in public life. As my colleague Peter Walker reports, ministers would be barred from lobbying or other paid work connected to their government roles for five years after they leave office under Labour’s plans.

11.30am: Downing Street holds its lobby briefing.

12pm: Sturgeon is due to give her speech to the SNP’s online conference.

2pm: The Commons standards committee publishes its report proposing changes to the code of conduct for MPs.

After 3.30pm: Sajid Javid, the health secretary, is expected to give a statement to MPs on Covid.

At some point today we are also expecting the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization to make an announcement about extending the booster programme.

I will be mostly looking at UK Covid developments today, but I will covering non-Covid politics too. For global Covid developments, do read our global live blog.

Related: Covid live news: Six cases of Omicron variant found in Scotland; WHO says ‘very high’ global risk from new strain

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The government has announced that, in England, it will be compulsory to wear masks in shops and on public transport from tomorrow. This will move England closer to the situation in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, where rules on mask wearing have constitently been tougher than in England.

But, as the Telegraph’s Ben Riley-Smith points out, in England there are plenty of venues where masks remain voluntary.

Where will you have to wear a mask?

Train ✅

Bus ✅

Shop ✅

Supermarket ✅

Bank ✅

Post Office ✅

Theatre ❌

Cinema ❌

Pub ❌

Restaurant ❌

Nightclub ❌

Concert ❌

Office ❌

(From Tuesday. Based on current understanding of the Gov rule change – not yet published)

— Ben Riley-Smith (@benrileysmith) November 28, 2021

This morning Angela Rayner, the Labour deputy leader, said the UK government should be doing more to encourage mask-wearing in England. She told:

We think we should be encouraging people to wear masks when we’re all mixing indoors, as much as possible.

So we would recommend that people do wear masks when they’re out and about, specially when they’re moving around venues.

The prime minister unfortunately has undermined those messages in recent weeks, but wearing a mask can be a very protective way of supporting people in stopping the virus being able to spread as quickly.

Scottish cases show Omicron spreading in community, and no longer just linked to travel, Swinney says


John Swinney, Scotland’s deputy first minister, told the BBC this morning that some of the six confirmed Omicron cases in Scotland are people who have not been travelling, which means the variant is spreading in the community. Swinney said:

We obviously have some travel history on some of the cases, I don’t have all of that detail available to me at this stage, but on some of the cases we are aware that there is no travel history involved on some of the cases.

So what that tells us is that there must be a degree of community transmission of this particular strain of the virus in the absence of direct travel connection for some of the cases in the southern African area.

So that obviously opens up further challenges for us in terms of interrupting the spread of this particular strain of the virus and that will be the focus of the contact tracing operation that is under way already.

UK Covid live: Scottish and Welsh governments call for eight-day quarantine for all new arrivals to UK
© Provided by The Guardian John Swinney. Photograph: Getty Images



A person infected with the Omicron variant in Essex is “well” and isolating with their family, the region’s top public health official has said. Essex’s director of public health, Dr Michael Gogarty, told BBC Breakfast:

Most importantly with the confirmed case is that they are well, they are isolating with their family. When I say that they are well, I mean they are not seriously ill. They have some symptoms but they do not require hospitalisation.

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