Scotland through the worst of Omicron wave with situation ‘much more positive’ – Nicola Sturgeon

Scotland is now “through the worst” of the Omicron wave of coronavirus, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

Giving her latest Covid update to Holyrood, the First Minister insisted that the situation was “much more positive” that it had been at the start of the year.

Her comments came as the number of Covid patients in intensive care in Scotland’s hospitals fell to 31 – the lowest it has been since early July 2021.

That includes 13 confirmed Covid-19 patients who have needed this level of treatment for more than four weeks.

Over the past week, Covid cases have fallen again, declining by 5% from about 7,400 infections a day to just over 7,000.

The most recent daily figures, meanwhile, recorded 6,630 new cases of the virus, as well as a further 14 deaths – taking the total who have died within 28 days of testing positive to 10,447.

Ms Sturgeon said that the number of people in hospital with Covid was declining – with this dropping from more than 1,500 patients in mid January to 950.

“It seems reasonable based on the data to conclude that we are now through the worst of this wave of Omicron,” she told MSPs.

As Scotland moves into what will hopefully be a “calmer phase of the pandemic”, figures on new cases, hospitalisations and vaccinations will no longer be reported at the weekend, the First Minister said, with this coming weekend being the last that this data will be provided.

And while she stressed the situation was now more positive, Ms Sturgeon also said that taking “continued care and caution” was both “necessary and prudent”.

She stated: “Although the number needing hospital care is reducing, it is still in the hundreds each week and pressure on the NHS remains significant.

“So continuing to take basic precautions will help us keep the virus under control while enjoying the return to normal life.

“That is why some baseline protective measures, such as Covid certification and the requirement to wear face coverings in certain settings, will remain in force for now.”

A specialist group is meeting on Tuesday to consider if children in secondary schools should continue to to wear face masks – with Ms Sturgeon pledging the Government will “consider carefully” the advice on this issue.

A decision will be confirmed “as quickly as possible and in advance of the return to school after the February break,” she added.

Monitoring of the BA.2 sub-type of Omicron has confirmed 103 cases of this form of the virus in Scotland – up from 26 last week.

Ms Sturgeon stressed that as not all samples can be subjected to this level of testing, this will be a “significant underestimate of actual prevalence”.

This strain of the virus may be “more transmissible”, Ms Sturgeon said, but she said there was still no evidence that it led to more severe disease than the main Omicron variant.

As a result, she said there were “no grounds at this stage for any significant concern about BA.2 – and no reason to change our approach in response to it”.

However, she said ministers and advisers would continue to monitor the situation “carefully”.

Scottish Labour leader, Anas Sarwar, said the Scottish Government allowed care homes to be the “epicentre” of the pandemic, where one third of all deaths have occurred.

He added: “For months, despite restrictions starting to ease, care homes remained locked down.

“We know the harm and trauma that can be caused by keeping care home residents cut off from their loved ones but, even now, families are being locked out.”

Mr Sarwar went on to ask the First Minister when tighter responses to care home positive tests, which still require isolation of 10 days; and outbreaks, where only named visitors are allowed access for 14 days; will be eased.

“There are few people who have borne a bigger impact from this virus than those in care homes and the relatives of those in care homes,” the First Minister said.

“As the person who has led the Government’s response since the outset of this pandemic, we have sought to take the best decisions based on the best evidence we had at any given time to keep those in our care homes as safe as possible.”

She added: “We want to get the situation in care homes back to complete normality. We will continue to support change in order that people can visit, normally, their loved ones in care homes.”

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