SCOTLAND’S guidance on the reality of the Omicron situation has been “much clearer” than the UK Government’s, according to a top public health expert.

Andrew Hayward, the Director of the Institute of Epidemiology and Healthcare at University College London and member of Number 10’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, was speaking to the BBC about the challenges presented by the variant.

His comments came after Boris Johnson refused to match England’s chief medical officer in urging people to prioritise events that “really matter to them” over the festive period in an effort to curb the spread of the virus.

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Instead, the Prime Minister said people should “think carefully” before attending Christmas celebrations.

Representatives from the hospitality sector in England have expressed concern that the messaging could be “confusing” to customers – and warned that conflicting guidance is leading to an “acceleration in cancellations”.

This week, Scotland’s First Minister gave a clear warning over the threat of the rapidly spreading Omicron variant.

She urged people to “pull together and look after each other again” as she called on Scots to restrict their socialising to three households before and after Christmas.

“If we don’t act now to protect health, Omicron will inflict untold damage on businesses and critical services across Scotland,” she warned.

Speaking to BBC Breakfast in a personal capacity, Hayward referred to the difference in tone between the UK and Scottish governments.

“I mean listen, I’m just a scientist,” he told the presenters. “But I see a big potential problem coming here. I personally think that the communication, for example, in Scotland has been much clearer on this.

“It’s been upfront that there’s a big problem coming that’s going to be a big problem to the health service, and that people can really help on this by reducing the amount of contact that they have. And I don’t think I’ve really heard that said clearly here.

“In fact the only time it was said, was by Jenny Harries a few weeks ago when it was a very sensible thing to say – even back then. And she was largely shot down on that.”

Speaking in November, Harries, the chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency called on the public to “decrease our social contacts a little bit” to help slow the spread of Covid-19. However, Downing Street overrode the comments.

A spokesperson said this was not government policy, telling the media: “People should follow the guidance the government has set out.”

On the BBC programme on Thursday, Professor Hayward also said the doubling rate of Omicron would lead to an “extraordinary number of cases” and “a huge wave of infection”.

He added: “If you think about getting a year’s worth of rain over a month, then you’re going to get flooding and potentially severe flooding, no matter how much you’ve shored up your defences.

“And that’s the concern here – that that huge wave is going to cause lots of people to be off work having to isolate, which is going to cause disruption, and it’s going to spill over into people going into hospital.

READ MORE: Omicron: UK records highest ever number of daily Covid-19 cases

“Now the rate at which it spills over is uncertain because we don’t know exactly how severe it is yet, but we’ve no particular reason to think that it’s less severe than previous strains.

“We know that Covid is always going to be less severe if you’ve been immunised but it may be that rather than the strain itself that’s making a lot of cases look less severe.”

He said more data should come around Christmas time or in the new year on severity, but added: “The trouble is, if you wait until then and don’t do anything to reduce the spread, then you’re in a much worse situation than if you take some action now.”