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UK set to follow Scotland with work from home order

The UK government plots 'imminent announcement' as the Omicron variant continues to spread

Nicola Sturgeon has asked for people in Scotland to work from home until the middle of January to prevent the "potentially rapid rise" of the Omicron variant of COVID-19. 

A similar announcement is expected to be made by the UK's prime minister, Boris Johnson, with wide reports of "Plan B" restrictions to be implemented on Thursday, according to Reuters.  

Cases of the Omicron variant have increased in Scotland, shooting up from 28 to 99 in a matter of days, according to the leader of the Scottish National Party. There is also a belief that around 4% of COVID-19 cases north of the border are likely to be the new strain of the virus. 

"If you had staff working from home at the start of the pandemic, please now do so again," said Sturgeon according to the Independent. "We're asking you to do this from now until the middle of January when we will review this advice."

"I know how difficult this is, but I cannot stress enough how much difference we think this could make in helping step transmission and avoiding the need for even more onerous measures."

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The UK government had previously ruled out working from home, suggesting it wasn't necessary, but the greater transmissibility of Omicron might have forced another U-turn. Sage professor Neil Ferguson told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the new variant appears to be doubling every two to three days.

"It's likely to overtake Delta before Christmas at this rate, precisely when is hard to say," Ferguson said. "We'll start seeing an impact on overall case numbers - it's still probably only 2%, 3% of all cases so it's kind of swamped, but within a week or two we'll start seeing overall case numbers accelerate quite markedly as well."

The decision to go back to remote working comes as the government faces intense scrutiny over a Christmas party held at Number 10 during last year's lockdown. Some Tory MPs are reportedly concerned that the public may be unwilling to follow new restrictions after a video emerged of Downing Street aides laughing about a social gathering in the weeks leading up to Christmas. 

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