Nicola Sturgeon warns this could be the worst week for Covid since the start of the pandemic

A recent spike in Covid cases in Scotland have caused the First Minister to label it the toughest week in the pandemic so far

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Health board bosses believe this week could be the worst since the beginning of the pandemic, the First Minister and Health Secretary have said.

A recent spike in cases led to the number of people being admitted to hospital and testing positive for the virus rising to 2,038 on Wednesday, up from 1,191 at the beginning of the month.

But Deputy First Minister John Swinney told MSPs on Thursday that Scotland had “passed the peak” of the latest spike.

Speaking during First Minster’s Questions later the same day, Nicola Sturgeon said: “It is possible, in terms of impact on our NHS, this week will be perhaps the toughest in the pandemic so far and everyone who is working to help us through is doing a sterling job and they have the deep gratitude of me and this Government.”

RETRANSMITTING CORRECTING TOWN NAME First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon meets young people who have been in care and their families during a visit to the Glenboig Life Centre in Glenbo, Coatbridge, to mark Care Day 2022 and hear how they've benefitted from community support programmes provided by the local development trust. Picture date: Friday February 18, 2022.
RETRANSMITTING CORRECTING TOWN NAME First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon meets young people who have been in care and their families during a visit to the Glenboig Life Centre in Glenbo, Coatbridge, to mark Care Day 2022 and hear how they've benefitted from community support programmes provided by the local development trust. Picture date: Friday February 18, 2022.

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf made similar comments when he appeared before the Covid-19 Recovery Committee earlier, saying: “I’m not speaking out of turn by saying, in the conversations that I’ve had in the course of this week with health boards and my officials have had this week, many of the health boards have given us the consistent message that they feel that this week is probably the toughest week they have faced in the course of the pandemic.

“We haven’t had today’s numbers, they haven’t been published yet, in terms of those in hospital with Covid, but yesterday’s numbers – just under 2,000 – add to that a high level of delayed discharge.”

Given the “scale of outbreak” in Scotland, the Health Secretary added, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde reported it was unable to discharge patients into care homes, leading to bed blocking.

“As well as the accumulated pressure this week, it looks like it’s shaping up to be if not the worst week or the most challenging week of the pandemic, then certainly one of the most challenging,” he said.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon arriving for First Minster's Questions at the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood, Edinburgh. Picture date: Thursday February 3, 2022.
Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon arriving for First Minster's Questions at the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood, Edinburgh. Picture date: Thursday February 3, 2022.

Later in the same committee meeting, Mr Swinney gave evidence about Scottish Government plans announced on Tuesday that will see most testing scrapped at the end of April, while the legal requirement to wear face coverings in some public places and on public transport will remain.

Asked by fellow SNP MSP Jim Fairlie if he is confident in the changes given the recent spike in cases, Mr Swinney said: “We believe that we’re past the peak of the BA.2 variant.

“We see that in the number of cases, we see it in hospital admissions – though the numbers in hospital are high, they’re not being added to with the same vigour as was the case before.

“I would contend that, in the face of the evidence Mr Fairlie puts to me, the Government has taken prudent steps to deal with that.

“If we had gone ahead and removed the legal obligation around face coverings on Monday, then I think Mr Fairlie would have legitimate additional questions to put to me.

“We took that decision to some controversy – a number of people are kicking off about it – but, in my view, it was the responsible thing for us to do to provide a bit more protection to try to get this under control.”

According to the latest data released by the Government on Thursday afternoon, Scotland recorded 28 coronavirus-linked deaths in the past 24 hours.

It means the number of people who have died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 has risen to 11,075.

The data shows 9,721 new cases of Covid-19 have been reported, but the figures cover less than a 24-hour period due to a technical issue which means data has not been received since 2pm on Wednesday.

Of the 2,038 people in hospital with Covid-19, 31 are in intensive care, down one.

Authorities said that due to technical issues, Public Health Scotland has not been able to provide vaccination data on Thursday.