Scotland's rise in Covid cases is largely down to Stealth Omicron also known as the BA.2 sub-variant. 

The First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, confirmed in her Covid briefing on Tuesday that Stealth Omicron is the dominant strain in Scotland and accounts for 80% of the cases in the country.

Almost 40,000 Scots have tested positive for Covid-19 since Saturday and sadly another 25 people have died after testing positive for the virus, according to the latest figures published at 2 pm. 

In the Scottish Parliament, she said: “The increase in cases over the past three weeks has been driven by the BA.2 sub-lineage of the Omicron variant, which is estimated to be significantly more transmissible – with a growth rate since mid-February perhaps 80% greater than original Omicron.

Border Telegraph: Nicola Sturgeon in the Scottish Parliament. Credit: PANicola Sturgeon in the Scottish Parliament. Credit: PA

“BA.2 is now our dominant strain, accounting for more than 80% of all reported cases.

“BA.2 has become dominant in Scotland earlier than in England and Wales, hence the more rapid increase in cases here than south of the border in recent weeks – although cases and hospital admissions are now rising sharply again in England too.”

Ms Sturgeon confirmed that all legal Covid-19 requirements will be lifted as planned on Monday, including the need for businesses to collect customer contact details - except for facemasks.

The First Minister said that it was  “prudent” for facemasks to remain in place given the “current spike in case numbers”.


READ MORE: Covid Scotland: Facemasks legally required until April

READ MORE: Covid LIVE: Sturgeon drops all remaining restrictions but face masks stay 'for now'


What is Stealth Omicron?

Stealth Omicron, as the name suggests is a sub-strain of the Omicron variant ( BA.1) that spread across the UK in December and into the New Year.

Stealth Omicronwas first identified in December and is currently under investigation.

It has also been detected in multiple countries across the globe over the last three months, including the US, China, India, Denmark, Germany and Australia, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Professor Adrian Esterman, a former WHO epidemiologist, warned on Twitter that: “Omicron BA.2 is about 1.4 times more infectious than BA.1. The basic reproduction number (R0) for BA.1 is about 8.2, making R0 for BA.2 about 12. This makes it pretty close to measles, the most contagious disease we know about.”

Stealth Omicron was given its name because it is seen as more difficult to differentiate from the Delta variant than BA.1.

The Omicron variant could be identified in PCR tests by deleting a specific spike gene or S-gene.

Scientists have been undertaking additional genome sequencing tests in laboratories to learn more about the strain.

Omicron BA.2 variant symptoms

Border Telegraph: Lateral flow test. Credit: PALateral flow test. Credit: PA

No new symptoms have nee been identified but you should be looking out for:

  • High temperature
  • New continuous cough
  • Loss or change to your sense of smell or taste.
  • Runny or congested nose
  • Feeling fatigued
  • Headache
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Sore throat
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhoea

For more information and further guidance about taking a test and self-isolating, visit the NHS website.