By First Minister Nicola Sturgeon
I must stress at the outset that the situation that we face in relation to the virus remains precarious and extremely serious. Therefore, in order to maximise our chances of effectively suppressing the virus, I will set out further tightening of the lockdown restrictions.
The total number of positive cases reported yesterday was 1,949, which represents 10.2 per cent of all tests carried out and takes the total number of cases to 155,372. I can also confirm that, as of yesterday, 191,965 people had received their first dose of vaccine.
Today, 1,794 people are in hospital with Covid, which is 77 more people than yesterday. In the week up to 7 January alone, 1,005 patients were admitted to hospital, compared with 851 patients in the final week of December.
All those figures underline the severity of the pressure on the national health service and the fact that that is increasing.
I am sad to report that, in the past 24 hours, a further 79 deaths have been registered of patients who first tested positive in the previous 28 days. The total number of deaths under that measure is now 5,102.
Currently, 134 people are in intensive care, which is one more than yesterday.
National Records of Scotland has just published its weekly update, which includes cases where Covid is a suspected or contributory cause of death, even if that has not been confirmed through a test. Today’s update shows that, by Sunday, the total number of registered deaths linked to Covid under the wider definition was 7,074. Of those deaths, 384 were registered last week, which is 197 more than in the previous week, and is the highest weekly figure that we have recorded since May.
Some of the increase might be down to people registering deaths last week that had occurred over the Christmas and new year period. Even so, the figure is heart-breakingly high, and it reminds us again of the grief that the virus continues to cause. Yet again, I send my condolences to all those who have lost a loved one.
A little while ago, the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport [Jeane Freeman] made a detailed statement about our vaccination programme. As I give today’s statement, which will inevitably focus on the sacrifices that we are asking of people, it is worth highlighting some of the key points that she made.
We have already vaccinated more than 80 per cent of care home residents in Scotland, and more than half of front-line health and social care workers.
The vaccination of those aged over 80 is under way and gathering speed. First doses for the over-80s will be completed by the start of February, and everyone aged over 70 will have been offered vaccination by mid-February. It is our aim to vaccinate everyone over 65 and those with extreme clinical vulnerability by the end of February.
That means that, by the start of March, 1.4 million people will have received at least the first dose of vaccine. To support that, more than 1,100 vaccination centres are already operational in Scotland. That number will increase, with mass centres opening too, as supplies increase.
That is all positive. Vaccination offers us a route back to a more normal life, and gives us real hope for the future.
However, for now, we are in a race against the virus. To win the race, we must complete the vaccination programme as quickly as possible, which is what we will do, but we must also slow down the virus. Today’s numbers demonstrate again why that is necessary.
In early December, we were recording approximately 100 new cases of Covid each week for every 100,000 people. Since then, that figure has almost trebled.
That is mainly because the new variant of Covid, illustrated above, which is much easier to transmit, is spreading rapidly. The new variant now makes up around 60 per cent of new cases and makes it far more difficult to get the R number back below 1 without severe restrictions.
Of course, we now have severe restrictions in place and, while it is still early days, there are some signs that lockdown may be starting to have an effect.
The rapid increase in cases that we saw around the turn of the year appears to have slowed down and begun to stabilise. That is good news, but at this stage it can give us no room for complacency.
It is too soon to be entirely confident that the situation is stabilising and, even if it is, that will only be because of lockdown. It is not, unfortunately, an indication that it is safe to ease it yet in any way. The number of new cases is still far too high and, of course, all of that is having a significant and severe impact on our health service.
With the number of people being infected every day remaining as high as it is, the pressure on the national health service is likely to increase further and continue for some time.
Last week saw the highest number of registered deaths from Covid since early May. Therefore, we must continue to do everything possible to reduce case numbers. That is essential to relieve the pressure on our health service and also to save lives.
That is why the Cabinet considered yesterday some further tightening of the lockdown restrictions, to ensure that they can be as effective as they need to be in suppressing the virus.
- First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was speaking to the Scottish Parliament. Details of new restrictions in West Dunbartonshire will appear elsewhere today in The Dumbarton Democrat.