OMICRON may have seeded in Scotland at COP26, according to a leading scientist.

Professor Neil Ferguson, a member of the UK Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) and head of the disease outbreak modelling group at Imperial College London, pointed to London and Scotland having higher cases of the coronavirus variant than other parts of the UK.

He then pointed to COP26, that was held in Glasgow from October 31 to November 12, and while he noted that he was speculating pointed to the possibility that the event may have seeded the variant in Scotland.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon confirms ten-fold spike in Omicron cases in Scotland

Asked about which geographical areas in the UK were affected by Omicron, he said: "It's across the country, we have detected it in almost every region.

"It's ahead of other areas in Scotland and in London at the moment. London is to be expected because that's where most foreign visitors come. Scotland, one can speculate, perhaps COP or something like that had something to do with it seeding there," he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Wednesday.

On November 9 Deputy First Minister John Swinney said COP26 had so far not caused a spike in Covid cases.

He told MSPs that based on lateral flow test results, just 0.1 per cent of those attending the SEC had become infectious by November 5.

Around 40,000 politicians, climate experts, campaigners and journalists arrived in Scotland for the United Nations summit.

Delegates were not required to show proof of their vaccination status before attending the secure Blue Zone at the SEC - but were required to take a lateral flow test each day.

Earlier this month the First Minister said that Public Health Scotland had carried out work to establish whether COP26 is linked to the variant's arrival in Scotland and said there was "no evidence whatsoever of any such link" and insisted that the timescales made it "improbable".

During the same interview Ferguson said that Omicron was likely to be the dominant strain in the UK before Christmas.

“It’s likely to overtake Delta before Christmas at this rate, precisely when is hard to say,” Ferguson said, speaking in a personal capacity.

“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.”

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Regarding lockdowns, Ferguson said it was difficult to rule out anything, adding that we “haven’t got a good enough handle on the threat”.

He added: “Clearly, if the consensus is it is highly likely that the NHS is simply going to be overwhelmed then it will be for the government to decide what what he wants to do about that, but it’s a difficult situation to be in of course.”

Pushed on whether lockdowns might be possible, he said: “It certainly might be possible at the current time.”

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He also noted preliminary work in the UK that suggests that two doses of Pfizer are roughly half as protective against mild disease as against other variants.

But he said: “We think that protection against severe disease is much more likely to be maintained at the high level, but we don’t have firm data on that. That’s just based on extrapolation from past experience.”

Ferguson called the pace of Omicron’s growth “very fast”, saying: “It’s the same if not faster than we saw with the original strain of the virus in March last year, so it is a concern.”

He said data on the evasion of vaccines was preliminary but pointed to a study in South Africa that said “this virus Omicron can evade immunity antibodies generated against the very original Chinese strain of the virus better than any variant we’ve seen so far”.

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Lockdowns or other restrictions could help to protect people from infection and gather information, Ferguson said. “There is a rationale, just epidemiologically, to try and slow this down, to buy us more time principally to get boosters into people’s arms because we do think people who are boosted will have the best level of protection possible, but also to buy us more time to really better characterise the threat.

Ferguson said the “key question” of whether the UK decided to attempt to slow the spread of Omicron would “critically depend on really the threat it poses in terms of hospitalisations. At the moment we don’t really have a good handle on the severity of this virus.

“There’s a little hint in the UK data that infections are a little bit more likely to be asymptomatic. But we really need to firm up that evidence at the current time.”