COVID 19: The number of people who have died is now 7,084.

By First Minister Nicola Surgeon

Currently, 967 people are in hospital with Covid, which is 51 fewer than yesterday, and 89 people are in intensive care, which is four fewer than yesterday. I regret to report that, in the past 24 hours, a further 31 deaths were registered. That means that the total number of people who have died from Covid under that daily measurement is now 7,084. Again, I want to send my condolences to everyone who has lost a loved one.

Turning to vaccination, I note that 1,515,980 people have now received a first dose, which is an increase of 27,903 since yesterday. The fact that more than 1,500,000 people have now received the first dose of vaccination is, I think, a really significant milestone. We have now given a first dose to almost exactly one third of the adult population, and that includes virtually everyone in the top four clinical priority groups as recommended by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.

In addition, 85 per cent of 65 to 69-year-olds have now had a first dose. We continue to be on course to complete that group by early March. Subject to supply, we expect to be able to offer first doses to all over 50-year-olds and all adults with an underlying health condition by 15 April.

I confirm that 56,661 people have now received a second dose, which is an increase of 6,540 from yesterday. Significantly, around a third of residents in older people’s care homes have already received the second dose. From Monday next week, we will start to publish that figure daily.

Once again, I take the opportunity to record my thanks to everyone who is involved in administering the vaccines and everyone who is coming forward to receive them.

The latest estimate of the reproduction number will be published shortly. We expect it to have remained below 1, but perhaps not very far below 1. That underlines the fact that, although everything is heading in a positive direction, there is still quite limited scope to ease restrictions while avoiding a potential resurgence in cases. That is why we continue to take a careful, step-by-step approach.

Indicative dates for easing restrictions have been given for the next six weeks, because that is the time-frame that we can be most confident about. That approach allows us to monitor the impact of initial changes and it means that we can accelerate the easing should the data support that. We will set out more information as we are able to, over the next few weeks.

For now, as vaccines do their work and as we learn more about controlling the new variant, it is vital that we proceed with caution. I ask people, for now, to stick with the advice and stay at home. It is very difficult, but it is also working. It is allowing the vaccination programme time to do its job and start to take more of the strain of suppressing the virus. I ask people to continue to stay at home and I thank them for doing so.

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