Scotland could see a "tsunami of infections" from the new Omicron variant, first minister Nicola Sturgeon has said.
A Scottish government evidence paper said the variant “threatens a rapid and large surge” in cases, with modelling showing infections could rise as high as 25,000 a day in the worst-case scenario.
The rate at which cases of the new variant double is between two and three days, the paper said, and it is highly probable that Omicron will become the dominant variant within Scotland “very quickly”.
The upper range of the document’s worst-case scenario projection for the Omicron variant falls just short of 25,000 cases a day by December 20th, while the most-likely range of the worst-case scenario will see cases hit a little more than 15,000.
In the best-case scenario, cases will peak at just more than 1,250.
Ms Sturgeon told a coronavirus briefing in Edinburgh on Friday following publication of the paper: "The fact is, we do face a renewed and very severe challenge in the face of the new Omicron variant.
“To be blunt, because of the much greater and faster transmissibility of this new variant, we may be facing – indeed we may be starting to experience – a potential tsunami of infections.”
More than 1,000 confirmed, probable and possible Omicron cases have been reported in Scotland. So far six cases of Omicron have been identified in the Republic.
The data has shown it is “likely that a proportion of these infections will result in hospitalisation”, the paper said.
But it added: “Even if the resulting illness is relatively mild, the number of cases could potentially cause great disruption to other services, in the economy and businesses, and in wider society, as more people would be absent from work due to illness and asked to isolate if they test positive or as contacts of someone who has tested positive.
“It also means that the rapid rise in Omicron infections could put significant additional pressure on hospitals and other health and care services, close to the point in the winter when they are already likely to be at peak pressure.” – PA