Scotland’s national clinical director has warned that the next coronavirus variant could be worse than Omicron.

Professor Jason Leitch said that new variants had the potential to be “more severe” than the current outbreak.

His comments follow the First Minister’s statement earlier this week, where Nicola Sturgeon said that the country “may be starting to turn a corner” following a rapid Omicron surge.

On Thursday, Scotland recorded 8,203 new cases of Covid and 26 deaths from the virus.

Of the people in hospital with recently confirmed covid, 58 are in intensive care.

Speaking on STV’s Scotland Tonight, Prof Leitch said: “We’ve had four variants, and they’ve got progressively worse, and then one has got slightly better. But Omicron didn’t come from Delta and Delta didn’t come from Alpha. That’s not how it works. They all come from the beginning. 

“So you could get a more mild one, and that would help us and you would end up having fewer people in hospital, but you could get a more severe one. So we have to be ready for all of those eventualities.

“This is not the last variant, there will be another one. So governments all over the world, including ours, have to be ready and businesses have to be ready.”

Prof Leitch also warned that while Omicron cases appear to be past the peak, hospitalisations with the strain are still to be fully expected.

Speaking about how long it took hospitalisations to fall following Christmas in 2020, he said: “Boxing Day in 2020 took us five weeks to get the hospitalisations to turnaround. So that’ll take us five weeks again. 

“So that’s hard for our hospitals and our healthcare workers.”

On the programme he also said that life would not be the same as pre-Covid times.

“It will be the next normal, it won’t be the same as it was pre-Covid,” he said. 

“We’re not going to wake up on a Tuesday morning and think ‘that’s a relief, that’s all over we can just move on’.

“We’re gonna have to adapt to the next version of Covid.”