A TOTAL of 26 cases of the Omicron sub-variant BA.2 have been detected in Scotland, the First Minister confirmed. 

During her weekly update to MSPs in Holyrood, the FM said that the number of PCR test results with an S Gene dropout - indicating it is an Omicron case - have fallen in the last week.

However, there has been a corresponding increase in tests with S Gene positive results - which appears in cases of the Delta variant - but could also mean a rise in the sub-variant. 

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The Statens Serum Institut (SSI), in Denmark, have estimated this week that the strain BA.2 is around one and a half times more transmissible than the original version of Omicron. The variant is currently under examination by scientists.

The First Minister told MSPs: "As members will recall, with the main Omicron variant, what is called the S Gene is absent in PCR tests. However, in BA.2 cases the S Gene shows up.

"In the last week, the proportion of PCR tests with an S Gene dropout - which indicates the main Omicron variant - has declined, with a corresponding increase in the proportion of tests showing S Gene positive results. 

"This could be accounted for by Delta cases which also show positive S Gene results. 

The National:

Sturgeon confirmed the number of BA.2 variant cases on Tuesday afternoon

"However, it may also indicate increasing transmission of the BA.2 sub variant.

"Genomic sequencing is being used to investigate this further. 

"So far, I can confirm that in Scotland, 26 cases of BA.2 have been confirmed through genomic sequencing - but we expect this number to increase as more sequencing results are reported. And given that not all tests are genomically sequenced, it will be an underestimate of the presence of this sub variant here."

The FM added that there was "no evidence" the BA.2 variant is more severe than Omicron, or that it has the ability to escape the immunity given by vaccine or previous infection of the virus.

She added: "However, BA.2 does appear to have the ability to out-run the main Omicron variant, which may indicate that it is more transmissible. 

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"Investigations into this are ongoing, both in the UK and in other countries, such as Denmark, where the sub-variant has been circulating for longer. 

"At the moment, therefore, the BA.2 variant is not a cause for any alarm or change in approach, but it does warrant further study.

"It also a reminder that the course of this pandemic - of any pandemic - remains uncertain."

The National:

Pupils will still be required to wear masks in the classroom 

The First Minister also confirmed Covid-19 restrictions, including vaccine passports. will be kept in place for another three weeks.

Sturgeon told MSPs that this also includes hospitality settings collecting customer details for track and trace and face coverings to be worn in indoor spaces.

It comes as the FM also said that school pupils will still be required to wear face coverings in classrooms given the "uncertainty about infection trends in the future".

She told MSPs that the advisory sub-group on Education will review the decision again on February 8.