The First Minister updated MSPs on Tuesday afternoon about the coronavirus pandemic in Scotland.
Earlier this week, work from home guidance was lifted and Nicola Sturgeon said that while the country is entering a ‘calmer phase’ of the pandemic, case numbers were expected to remain high for some time yet.
In her speech, Ms Sturgeon addressed the latest figures, a ‘stealth Omicron’ variant which is emerging, and mask regulation in schools.
Here are the key points from today’s speech by the First Minister.
The First Minister announced that there had been 7,565 new Covid-19 cases and 30 further deaths recorded in the past day.
A total of 1,177 people are currently in hospital who had recently contracted the virus with 42 in intensive care.
Ms Sturgeon said that the latest figures gave the country ‘grounds for optimism’ and added that the country was in a ‘much less severe’ situation than initially anticipated when Omicron emerged.
The Office for National Statistics released data showing that one in 30 Scots have had Covid in the week ending January 22.
The NHS remains under ‘acute pressure’ the First Minister said following a January spike in cases.
Nicola Sturgeon announced that there had been 26 confirmed cases in Scotland of Omicron sub-variant BA.2.
She said that the figure is expected to increase as scientists continue to investigate potential cases of the strain.
Speaking about the variant, Ms Sturgeon said that the BA.2 variant does not have the same S-gene drop which has been identified in the original Omicron strain of the virus, and so far there is no evidence to suggest that the latest strain results in severe disease and there is no evidence of vaccine immunity dropping.
It may be the case that BA.2 is more transmissible than Omicron, but urged Scots not to be alarmed.
Face coverings in schools
In Scottish secondary schools, face coverings will continued to be required for at least another week.
Ms Sturgeon said that despite the relaxation of Covid measures in recent weeks, the measure to prevent the spread of the virus will still be required,
She added that the Scottish Government’s advisory group on education had made the decision that the time is not right to drop the face mask requirement, but it is expected that the advisory group will consider the issue once again next week.
Ms Sturgeon stressed that “no-one wants young people to have to wear face coverings in the classroom for a moment longer than necessary”.
She added: “But given the current uncertainty about infection trends in the immediate future, and the relatively high levels of Covid in the younger age groups, continued caution is prudent at this stage.
Changes to daily data reporting/2>
The First Minister also announced that Public Health Scotland will soon report on Covid reinfection rates.
Currently, the daily information published by the Scottish Government shows the numbers of people who have become infected with Covid for the first time.
Ms Sturgeon said the change is ‘crucial’ as the country continues to progress through the pandemic.