By Democrat reporter
BBC SCOTLAND NEWS is reporting that Scotland has the highest coronavirus infection rate in the UK, according to the latest national figures.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) test positivity figures show that while infections have levelled off in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, Scotland’s infection rate has increased over the past two weeks.
It is estimated one in 240 people in Scotland has the Covid infection.
It comes as West Lothian reports a significant spike in cases.
The ONS figures, released on Friday, confirmed that in the week ending 20 March, UK infection levels were:
- 0.30% in England (1 in 340 people)
- 0.22% in Wales (1 in 450 people)
- 0.32% in Northern Ireland (1 in 320 people)
- 0.41% in Scotland (1 in 240 people)
Meanwhile daily statistics published by the Scottish government reported 543 new cases on Friday, slightly down on the 692 and 701 cases recorded on Wednesday and Thursday respectively.
The R number for Scotland has also risen recently. Earlier this month it rose to between 0.7 and 1.0 which was the first increase since the start of January.
This week’s estimate is between 0.8 and 1.0.
Public health expert Prof Linda Bauld told BBC Radio Scotland’s Drivetime programme: “You can see for the last two weeks in the ONS infection survey that Scotland has had the highest infection rates in the UK and you can also see that from the case numbers.
“I think there are a few things going on. There is definitely a schools effect which we always expected and you can see in the testing figures that there are quite a few younger people coming forward with symptoms and having tests.
“And we have also had some issues in local authority areas in Scotland. There were big numbers in West Lothian recently.”
She said that there was also an effect linked to parents and adults of school age children, with more mobility amongst people aged 30-50.
However she added: “I don’t think we should be panicking. The number of people in hospital has dropped to below 300 for the first time since the start of October, with less than 30 in intensive care.”
She said the figures give a warning sign that it is “not over” and that people should try to stick with the guidance as Scotland opens up.
Monitoring at schools
In West Lothian, the latest weekly figure showed 188.4 positive tests per 100,000 people – it has the highest Covid rate in Scotland.
One school has been closed, and cases have been monitored at seven other schools in the area.
Local newspaper the West Lothian Courier reported cases at Bankton Primary, Howden St Andrew’s Primary, St Ninian’s Primary and Williamston Primary.
It follows cases at Livingston Village Primary School, Riverside Primary School and Toronto Primary School.
Peel Primary in Livingston was closed for a week on 22 March, due to staff having to self isolate. Pupils and teachers returned to remote learning on NHS public health advice.
NHS Lothian said two temporary testing centres were opened in response to rising levels of community cases generally. They suggested the rising case numbers were related to the higher number of tests being carried out.
They said that routine testing of contacts of positive cases, which was introduced after Christmas, was now picking up larger numbers of asymptomatic infections.
The health board confirmed that case numbers had increased in the last seven days.
Katie Dee, interim director of public health said, “Most of these new cases are people who have the infection but show no symptoms and can pass it on, unknowingly, to others. In the past, many of these people would not have been tested, and the disease would have continued to spread.
“The new cases identified do not necessarily mean that the situation is getting worse, but are instead reflective of the ongoing work that is being done to control the virus, including the increased amount of testing being undertaken for people both with and without symptoms.”
She added that everyone should continue to be vigilant and stick to virus control measures.
West Lothian Council told the BBC that Peel Primary would reopen on Monday and that there would be testing facilities within the school.
A spokesman added: “Enhanced cleaning measures are already in place in schools in line with national guidance.
“We have liaised directly with parents at specific schools where there have been confirmed cases, and this will continue going forward.
“The council continues to follow advice from NHS Public Health at all times.”