Scotland is ‘past the worst’ of Covid peak

Scotland is "past the worst" of the current peak in coronavirus cases, the SNP Health Secretary has said, ahead of Nicola Sturgeon disclosing on Tuesday whether restrictions will be eased next week.

Humza Yousaf said a "positive trend" was beginning to emerge in the data, with cases levelling off despite remaining at a "very high" level.

He said the Scottish Government would take a "cautious not cavalier" approach to easing restrictions on July 19 but added that it would not "tolerate" the number of cases being discussed by his UK counterpart.

Sajid Javid has warned cases could reach 100,000 per day by mid-August, a Scottish share of which would be around 8,200. A further 2,048 cases were recorded on Sunday, with 444 people in hospital and 40 in intensive care.

Ms Sturgeon is scheduled to make a statement to parliament on Tuesday afternoon setting out whether she will press ahead with her plan to move all of Scotland to the lowest Level 0 restrictions on Monday, July 19.

She was also expected to abolish social distancing outdoors but warned last week that she may press ahead with easing only some of the measures, and not others, as the changes "needn’t always be binary".

However, she has faced accusations of confusing Scots by introducing "Level 0.5" and come under pressure to help struggling hospitals by ending the requirement for NHS staff to self-isolate for 10 days if they test negative.

Scotland’s infection rate is now higher than England’s

A series of health boards last week cancelled non-urgent operations after a surge of Covid patients and severe staff shortages caused by a combination of self-isolating contacts of positive cases and summer holidays.

In addition, Scotland’s GPs warned yesterday they were "firefighting" to catch up with the huge backlog in non-Covid care caused by the pandemic.

They warned they are under greater strain as more patients turn to their local surgeries for support and expressed concern about proposals to carry out two vaccination programmes, for both seasonal flu and coronavirus booster doses.

Mr Yousaf yesterday announced £12million to help under-pressure health boards, which he said would help reduce waiting times for urgent and emergency treatment by increasing the number of staff and beds.

Speaking to the BBC’s Sunday Show radio programme, Mr Yousaf said: "From the data I have seen over the last week – optimistically, I think we can say we are past the worst of the peak, this particular peak.

"Now that doesn’t mean there wouldn’t be another peak in the future but we’re beginning to see a stabilisation and beginning to see the cases level off. Still very high I must say, but we’re beginning to see a positive trend."

Mr Yousaf declined to give a number for what the Scottish Government’s worst-case scenario was for daily infections, saying the situation could change quickly between now and mid-August.

Dr Patricia Moultrie, the deputy chair of the Scottish GPs committee of the British Medical Association (BMA), told Scotland on Sunday the union is "more concerned than it has been for a long time".

She said: "It does look as though long Covid is going to be an illness that’s going to be managed in the community, and it’s good that fewer people are being admitted to hospital.

"But looking at the numbers that we’re seeing, we are very concerned about the workload that is going to be sitting in the community with the pandemic."

SNP ministers were also urged to abandon "draconian" proposals to quarantine thousands of international students from red-list countries on cruise liners off Scotland’s coast.

Douglas Ross, the Scottish Tory leader, said it was "incredible" the Scottish Government was even considering the move and demanded more information on what measures would be put in place to protect student welfare.

Existing hotels used for quarantining international arrivals do not have the capacity to cope with more than 5,000 students from red-list countries expected to arrive for the new university term in September.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "The Scottish Government is exploring a range of options in order to increase capacity in Managed Quarantine Facilities to meet the forecast demand for international students arriving from red-list countries this year.”

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