THE emergence of the Omicron coronavirus variant has led to record-high infection levels across the festive period.

While a single day has seen more than 20,000 Covid-19 cases reported in Scotland, the confirmed level of Omicron is much lower.

So far in Scotland, 21,832 confirmed cases of Omicron have been identified. This means that PCR tests showing an “S-gene dropout” which could indicate the variant have then been genetically sequenced.

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The S-gene dropout cannot be identified by the PCR tests done at all of the Covid testing labs, which contributes to an incomplete picture of the true situation on the ground.

The figures below show Omicron cases confirmed through whole genome sequencing, by NHS health board and as of January 5, 2022.

Speaking to MSPs on Wednesday, Nicola Sturgeon said: “The rapid and widespread transmission of Omicron is such that the daily recorded tally of cases - which has always been an underestimate of the true level of infection - now gives us an even less comprehensive indicator of how prevalent the virus is.”

She went on: “The results of the most recent ONS survey – published just a few minutes ago – suggest that in the week to 31 December that had risen to 1 in 20.

“The proportion of people with Covid is likely to be even higher than that now.”

The government data on Omicron notes: “While checks have been completed before publication, this is management information and data are therefore not subject to the full range of processes and quality assurance that would be required of Official Statistics.”

The data also shows that to date, 154 people confirmed to be infected with the Omicron variant have been admitted to hospital. Three people have needed treatment in intensive care.

However, the figures note that admission may be due to or coincidental with Omicron infection.

Nicola Sturgeon told parliament that data making this division clear would be published later this week.

She said: “I can advise Parliament that the first results from analysis to differentiate those who are in hospital because of Covid from those in hospital with Covid but who were admitted for different reasons will be published on Friday.

“Work is also being done to assess whether the average length of hospital stay resulting from Omicron is any different to that associated with other variants.

“So, in short, our understanding of the precise nature and extent of Omicron’s impact on hospitals and the wider health and social care system is still developing. However, what is beyond doubt is that it is already having a considerable impact.”