Covid Scotland: What do record high cases mean for hospitalisations and deaths? - analysis

Positive cases of Covid-19 have soared in Scotland in recent days, with a 17,259 new cases reported on Tuesday and an all-time record of 20,217 the day before.

But what impact will these unprecedented figures have?

Hospitalisations have increased recently, with 1,147 people now in hospital with recently-confirmed Covid-19.

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This number has been climbing rapidly, almost doubling from 599 the week before. The highest number recorded was 2,053 in late January 2021.

Passers-by look at a tv screen in a Glasgow shop showing First Minister Nicola Sturgeon making a Covid-19 statement during a virtual sitting of the Scottish Parliament. Picture date: Wednesday December 29, 2021.

Case numbers began to rise very sharply in Scotland from mid-December, and this would be expected to lead to an increase in hospitalisations around now.

However, data has not yet been released on how many of these people are in hospital directly because of their Covid symptoms, and how many happened to test positive while needing treatment for something else.

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These important figures will be released by Public Health Scotland on Wednesday, Deputy First Minister John Swinney has said.

Recent data reported in England suggested around two thirds of those hospitalised with Covid were being treated for the virus.

The number of people with Covid in intensive care has not yet risen significantly in Scotland. As of Tuesday there were 42 Covid patients who had recently tested positive, and a further 11 who had been in intensive care for longer than 28 days.

In comparison, the figure for recently-confirmed Covid patients climbed above 200 in the first wave, and above 150 in the second.

Deaths within four weeks of a positive Covid test also remain comparatively low, although these would be expected to lag even further behind other indicators.

So far just 91 patients have been admitted to hospital with a confirmed case of the Omicron variant, and just one is in intensive care.

However, these figures have not been updated since December 31, due to public holidays. They also lag weeks behind real-time data, as they only take into account Omicron cases confirmed by lengthy genomic sequencing.

Finally, it’s important to note that high case numbers can also have a hefty impact outside of hospitalisations and deaths.

Covid-related self-isolation has caused staff shortages across major industries, and also in health and social care.

An average of 3,316 NHS staff were absent each day in the last week of December, the highest figure since March.

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