Lockdown restrictions in Scotland will continue until mid-February, Scotland’s Deputy First Minister has confirmed, saying that despite “cautious confidence” they are working, the situation remains “precarious”.
Giving an update at the Scottish Parliament as 87 further coronavirus deaths and 1,049 more cases were recorded in the past 24 hours, John Swinney said rules are driving down case numbers, but these remain “far too high”.
The death toll under this measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – is now 5,796.
Of the cases reported on Tuesday, the test positivity rate stood at 9% – up slightly from 8.6% on the previous day, when 752 new cases were recorded.
There were 2,010 people in hospital with recently confirmed Covid-19 on January 26 – down six in 24 hours – with 149 in intensive care.
Mr Swinney told MSPs the number both of new cases and people in hospital continued to be “deeply concerning”, but added: “Recent figures should also provide us with cautious confidence that the lockdown restrictions are having an effect.”
He said: “At the start of the year, in the seven days to Friday January 8, an average of 2,356 people in Scotland were testing positive for Covid every day. That’s 302 new cases for every 100,000 people in the population.
“In the seven days to last Friday that number had fallen from 2,356 to 1,384. That’s approximately 180 new cases for every 100,000 people.
“There now seems to be little doubt that the lockdown restrictions are reducing case numbers, rather than simply stabilising them, but case numbers remain far too high. In fact, they are still more than a third higher than they were just one week before Christmas.
“Of course, because we have had high infection rates for many weeks now, our NHS is under considerable strain.”
While he said there was now “some evidence that hospital numbers may be starting to stabilise”, he stressed they would take time to fall.
“At the moment, any relaxation of restrictions could cause them to increase further,” he added.
“All of this means that although we are definitely seeing signs of improvement, the position in Scotland remains precarious.”
As a result, the Deputy First Minister said the Scottish cabinet had decided not to make any changes to the current lockdown measures, with these to remain in place “until at least the middle of February”, as previously announced.
With the UK Government considering the case for making people arriving in the UK to stay in “quarantine hotels”, Mr Swinney said the Scottish Government would “go at least as far” in enhancing quarantine arrangements.
He said Scotland could go further if the arrangements put in place by Westminster are thought to be “at a minimal level”.
Mr Swinney also announced a further £30 million of support for students and colleges and universities – two thirds of which is going to students to combat hardship, including helping students pay rent for properties they cannot currently live in.
The remaining £10 million will help colleges and universities make up for lost revenue linked to the pandemic.
Meanwhile, Public Health Scotland statistics indicate 437,900 people in the country had received the first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine by 8.30am on Tuesday, an increase of 22,498 from the previous day.
It added that 6,060 people have received the second dose, a rise of 522.
The figures show more than half – 51% – of people aged over 80 in the community have been given a first dose, along with 98% of frontline health and social care workers, 95% of residents in older adult care homes, and 83% of staff in these homes.