Covid: Face coverings in schools may last longer than six weeks

By Bill Heaney

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed that a record 6,835 people have tested positive for Covid 19 following 14.2% of the tests carried out on Thursday.

There are 479 people in hospital with recently confirmed Covid-19 (up 53) and 47 in intensive care (no change).

Four further deaths were recorded in the past 24 hours of people who tested positive in the previous 28 days. A total of 4,095,463 people in Scotland have received their first dose of the vaccine and, in addition, 3,629,482 have had their second dose.

Ms Sturgeon says case numbers are rising across the UK just now, but in Scotland it is particularly sharp, perhaps due to schools returning earlier.

The figures are still “a cause for concern” as, in the past seven days, the number of positive tests have doubled.

She contends that some of the speculation in the media is “not accurate” and confirms the government is “not currently considering a circuit breaker lockdown”.

Professor  Jason Leitch, left,  believes it is right that major events, such as the Old Firm match, are going ahead as long as organisers take precautions.

The national clinical director also says people should be vaccinated, take a test before they go, abide by the guidance and wear their face covering further than the law requires them.

Ms Sturgeon says she “really hopes” the JCVI will soon recommend the vaccination for all 12 to 15-year-olds.  Immunisation expert Dr Christine Tait-Burkhard has told BBC Scotland that hospitalisation figures go up about a week after large rises in case numbers, so we should expect a spike next week.

The First minister said projections for hospitalisations are a real worry as hospitals are not cleared for Covid patients as they were in April last year. Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar has called for a “ramp up” of the vaccine roll-out to combat soaring case numbers.

Mitigations within schools will  continue as Ms Sturgeon says she has to consider the continued implications of rising cases, but her key message is that if we all act in line with the advice we have a chance of slowing transmission.

On face coverings, she says she thinks it is an essential mitigation. This will be reviewed before the end of the initial six weeks proposed, and the rule may well remain for longer if that is deemed necessary.

But it will not be enforced a moment longer than is required, the FM says. Projections for hospitalisations and says they are a real worry.  She says concern is higher because hospitals are not cleared for Covid patients as they were in April last year. The margin for a surge to overwhelm the NHS is now smaller, the first minister adds. This is “being watched carefully”.

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