Politics

Covid Scotland: Restrictions could be tightened, Jason Leitch warns

SCOTLAND’s Covid restrictions could be tightened before the next official review, the National Clinical Director has said.

Professor Jason Leitch warned that although there is a legal review every three weeks following the new measures introduced across the country, “that doesn’t mean things can’t go up or down in the middle weeks.”

His comments come as record-high virus case numbers were recorded in Scotland over the recent festive period – with provisional figures totalling nearly 30,000 between Christmas Day and December 27.

Prof Leitch also spoke about the further restrictions already imposed in recent days – such as limiting attendance at events and the reintroduction of social distancing in hospitality settings. Nightclubs are also to close for three weeks.

Nicola Sturgeon will tomorrow address recalled MSPs in the Scottish Parliament to give an update on the state of the pandemic – ahead of a formal review of restrictions on January 11.

However, speaking to BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme, Prof Leitch warned that the spread of the Omicron variant “remains a danger”, adding officials should “act very cautiously if you decide to remove restrictions”.

When asked if Scotland’s restrictions might last longer than already set out, he told the programme: “There are three things we’re doing to try and build our protections against this.

“There is the ‘get boosted by the bells’ vaccination programme. If you haven’t yet done that, I would implore you to go for your vaccination. There are slots available all over the country.

“Home testing is another key mechanism for us to protect each other and ourselves from bringing virus into a room or event. You’re able to test for the infectious disease before you leave home.

“And then there are the protections that the government have put in place in order to protect us from that virus, be it at events or considering our socialising.

“The First Minister will look at those today, she’ll talk to her Cabinet on Wednesday and parliament will discuss them. We’ll give the best advice we can but there is an official review, a legal review, every three weeks with those restrictions but that doesn’t mean things can’t go up or down in the middle weeks.”

Pushed if that meant further restrictions might be put in place in the coming days and weeks, Prof Leitch replied: ”I hope we can get away without anything too dramatic on top of what we’ve already done.

“I’m very conscious that there are people in the economic advice space, the mental health advice, the social policy, the education, of course, and those who have businesses and employees who have taken a hit in the few weeks leading up to Christmas.

“We don’t want that to last any longer than it needs, but the public health advice is that Omicron remains a danger to the country, in fact the WHO advice is that it remains a danger to the whole world, and therefore you should act very cautiously if you decide to remove protections.”

Prof Leitch also echoed comments made by Ms Sturgeon yesterday, who warned that case numbers will likely rise further as she warned of “inevitable further strain” on the NHS.

Speaking earlier on the programme, he said that latest modelling suggested the current Omicron wave could go as far as into February – with the “big numbers” of cases yet to come.

Provisional numbers show Scotland recorded 8,252 cases on December 25, 11,030 cases on December 26 and 10,562 cases on December 27.

Prof Leitch said: “The modelling suggests that the peak of the Omicron wave in the United Kingdom will be somewhere around mid to late January, maybe even pushing into February.

“That will depend quite a lot on human behaviour, it will depend on what we do now.

“We may not want the peak earlier remember, because if this is an enormous wave we may want it to draw out over a longer period because you might then get more people vaccinated.

“If you can vaccinate 75,000 people a day, every day counts here.

“So, if you can make it last a bit longer it will not be as severe for the population.

“The modelling suggests that we won’t see the big numbers and that seems terrifying having nine to 10 and 11,000, you won’t see the big numbers for two to three weeks yet.”

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