Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon has hit out at Boris Johnson and chancellor Rishi Sunak after they skipped an important COBRA meeting yesterday.
The pair went missing in action as new Covid-19 measures to combat the Omicron ‘tsunami’ were discussed.
Health secretary Sajid Javid said there are “no guarantees” that further action would not be needed following “sobering analysis” from scientific advisers warning about the threat from the new variant.
It comes as the UK Government doubled the amount of additional funding available for the governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to tackle Covid from £430 million to £860 million.
But Mrs Sturgeon took a swipe on social media and stated that it has yet to be decided if the money will need to be repaid.
She tweeted: “Before we get spin on ‘doubling’: 1/ the £220m announced last week was NOT new or additional (it was actually £48m less than we had been expecting). Seeking confirmation if this new £220m is additional (tho if so £48m will just make up last w/k loss) and if it has to be repaid.”
She said that “to the extent it is new/additional”, the Scottish Government will make sure it goes in full to helping business and the overall Covid effort.
“As infections soar and businesses suffer, we still need much more urgency in action/support from UK Gov – so that devolved gov hands not tied.
“To that end, it was disappointing and frustrating that neither the PM nor the Chancellor attended this evening’s COBRA.”
A major incident has been declared in London and more than 10,000 new Omicron cases have been confirmed in the UK, as the variant surges across the country.
A further 90,418 daily Covid cases have been reported across the UK on Saturday, after days of record highs.
Scientific advisers have warned England’s hospital admissions could reach 3,000 a day without new measures.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the major incident in the capital showed “how serious things are”.
He added: “The surge in cases of the Omicron variant across our capital is hugely concerning, so we are once again declaring a major incident because of the threat of Covid-19 to our city.
“The Omicron variant has quickly become dominant, with cases increasing rapidly and the number of patients in our hospitals with Covid-19 on the rise again.
“We are already feeling the impact across the capital and while we are still learning about this variant, it’s right that London’s key agencies work closely together to minimise the impact on our city, including helping to protect the vital vaccination programme.”
He had earlier spoken of his concern at potential staff absences in the NHS, fire brigade, police service, and across councils as more and more people become infected with Omicron.
Figures suggesting that one in three NHS staff in London could be off work by New Year’s Eve have been branded “catastrophic” by a nursing leader.
Patricia Marquis, the Royal College of Nursing’s England director, told BBC Radio 4’s The World This Weekend: “The workforce is already short, the workforce is already exhausted – mentally and physically – so the prospect of that just must fill everybody on the frontline, and the public, with real concern, because the NHS just has to be able to cope with emergency and urgent care in order for the public to feel safe.”
She said staff were exhausted and the “prospect of not knowing what is happening just adds an extra layer of concern for people”.
She added: “Winter is difficult at the best of times.
“In the current situation it doesn’t look like there’s an end in sight and that makes the situation sometimes feel even more hopeless than it might actually be.”