Scotland has reported its highest daily number of Covid-19 cases since the pandemic began, recording 3,887 new infections on Wednesday, the third day in a row that the number topped 3,000.
Parts of Scotland have overtaken the northwest of England as Britain’s main Covid-19 hotspots, with Dundee recording a seven-day case rate of 764 per 100,000.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who has taken a cautious approach throughout the pandemic, said however that she is not considering any change to the timetable that will see most remaining coronavirus restrictions lifted on July 19th and all of them gone by August 9th.
“Today’s reported Covid figures show a further increase – however, the vaccination impact is still clear. Vaccines are now doing much of the work we needed heavy restrictions to do in the last wave. And thankfully, we continue to see a much lower burden of serious illness,” she said.
“We continue to monitor cases – and, crucially, hospital/ICU numbers – carefully. However, by following all the advice, we all play a part in keeping country safe.”
Indoor hospitality is allowed throughout Scotland, although some places with high case numbers limit tables to six people rather than eight. Up to 100 people can attend weddings and funerals and all entertainment venues except nightclubs may open.
‘Almost complete normality’
Under the current plan, restrictions will be eased further on July 19th and all remaining restrictions will be lifted on August 9th, allowing Scotland to return to “almost complete normality”, according to Ms Sturgeon.
Some 83 per cent of Scottish adults have received at least one vaccination dose and 59 per cent have received two, with almost everyone over 60 now fully vaccinated.
The sharp rise in cases has been driven by the Delta variant, which officials believe has spread more quickly in Scotland, where it first seeded in Glasgow, than in England, where it seeded in smaller towns such as Bolton. Authorities said on Wednesday that nearly 2000 Scottish residents attended Euro2020 events in Glasgow or London while infected with the virus, mostly men between 20 and 39.
There have been four deaths so far this week and there are 235 people in hospital with Covid-19, the highest number for three months, 19 of them in intensive care.
Ms Sturgeon said this week that the vaccination programme was breaking the link between the number of cases and the number of people in hospital or dying.
“We would never have tolerated these numbers at this level without strict measures earlier in the year because we had no vaccine protection. We are not in lockdown now. We’ve got relatively few restrictions still in place. So if it wasn’t for the vaccine, the 3,000 or thereabout, cases that we’re reporting right now, with no restrictions in place that would probably be several times that,” she said.
“So the context has already changed, because we are not seeing that link between cases and serious illnesses. But it’s not completely broken and it might never be completely broken. The information that we’re looking at today, we won’t necessarily take the same action as we would on the back of the same information six months ago, because vaccination has really changed the game.”
The first minister also suggested that, despite the recent rise in case numbers, the rate of increase in infections may be slowing.
“This is early days and we need to monitor this over the course of the coming days. But when we look at cases over the past week by the date the specimen was taken, as opposed to the date on which we reported the test result – which are the numbers we report on a daily basis – then what we see is a peak in cases last Tuesday,” she said.
“And since then, we have seen what appears to be a swing down of the rate of increase. So that’s encouraging. But again, I would stress that it is early days.”