THE Omicron variant has been in the country for at least ten days, new data has revealed.
This afternoon Nicola Sturgeon said all nine of the cases in Scotland have been traced back to a single event on November 20.
That means the mutant variant was spreading in the UK four days before the world was alerted to the threat brewing in South Africa.
The First Minister said contact tracing work had been carried out and more cases were expected to emerge in coming days.
She told the Scottish Parliament this suggested there was community transmission of Omicron in Scotland, though it may still be "limited".
Ms Sturgeon said: "None of these individuals – as far as we know – has recent travel history to or known links with others who have travelled to the countries in southern Africa where the variant was originally detected.
"However, while the contact tracing exercise is still ongoing, health protection teams have established that all nine cases are linked.
"They all trace back to a single private event on 20 November.
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"Indeed, we fully expect that there will be more cases identified over the coming days that are also linked to this event."
Cases have been found in England and Scotland, with experts warning hundreds more will emerge soon.
In total there are 14 confirmed cases, but labs are thought to be probing hundreds of samples.
Scotland logged another three infections of the mutant variant this morning, on top of six reported yesterday.
They are scattered within Lanarkshire and the Glasgow area.
England has got five confirmed cases, with three found in the capital.
One, in Westminster, came from a person who has since left the country, and the other two are isolating in Camden and Wandsworth.
Another two cases in England have been reported in Nottingham and Brentwood, Essex.
This afternoon it was reported another case in Nottingham – in a university student – had emerged, but the UK Health Security Agency had not yet confirmed it.
It comes after revelations the variant was also already in the Netherlands when South Africa issued the warning about the mutation, last Wednesday.
The Nertherlands' RIVM health institute found Omicron in samples from November 19 and 23.
The Health Secretary told the Commons yesterday afternoon: "There have now been five confirmed case in England and six in Scotland. "We expect cases to rise over the coming days.
"The new variant has been spreading in the world – its been reported in Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Netherlands.
"In this race between vaccines and virus, this variant may have given the virus extra legs.
"Our strategy is to buy time and strengthen defences while scientists learn more."
Today face masks in shops and public transport become compulsory along with PCR tests for international arrivals.
Mounting concern over the Omicron super-strain – of which there are now 14 UK cases – sparked the fresh restrictions that came in at 4am.
Justifying the fresh curbs, Care Minister Gillian Keegan this morning said the government would rather "overreact than underreact".
But she said that Christmas is "on track" and urged people not to bin off their winter plans, declaring parties and nativities safe.
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