Health chiefs have urged the public to not be put off getting their Covid jabs by the Omicron variant.
At least 22 cases of the latest coronavirus strain have been found in the UK so far, with rules on face coverings reintroduced in an attempt to slow further spread.
And while it has prompted fears about the possibility of increased transmission or mortality rates, health experts have insisted until more data can be gathered it is vital to stick to the current immunisation programme.
“I think the message is, don’t let the new variant put you off – having the Covid vaccine is still our first line of defence,” said Liz Morgan, director of public health at Northumberland County Council.
“I think if there is a question mark over whether the vaccine is going to be as effective, then people might ask is it worth having my booster?
“Well, it is absolutely worth having the booster.
“We want people to be in the best possible immune state to to get us over the winter, so let’s boost that immunity now.”
All of the nine in Scotland are believed to originate from the same event.
However, it is still not known whether the variant is easier to pass on, cause more severe symptoms or resistant to existing vaccines, with a consensus emerging that it could take two weeks to answer such questions.
Speaking at a press conference, Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisted restrictions would “not be in place longer than necessary” and downplayed the prospect of issuing work from home guidance or imposing new lockdowns.
He also outlined plans to offer every eligible adult a booster jab by the end of January.
Morgan added: “There’s been a whole range of changes to the vaccination programme over the last few days to try and boost immunity in as many people as possible so that we are as prepared as we can be.
“If this particular variant does spread – and you only have to look back at how other new variants have spread to to guess that actually that’s probably the direction we’ll be travelling – if we can slow it down and boost the immunity in all of those people whose immunity will be waning, we’ll be in a much better position to ride out the spread of new variants, should that occur.”