Covid Scotland: 'Cautious optimism' as Nicola Sturgeon confirms increase in cases starting to slow

Nicola Sturgeon has expressed “cautious optimism” for Scotland’s Covid-19 situation as the rate of increase in new cases begins to slow.

But the First Minister refused to rule out the possibility of further restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus in future, amid continued warnings that the NHS is struggling to cope under the current crisis.

Some 5,810 new cases of Covid were reported on Wednesday, an increase on the previous day but down from the above 7,000 figure reported on several days last week.

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It comes after Professor Neil Ferguson of Imperial College, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said on Monday that the Covid figures in Scotland had reached a "hint of a plateau”.

Picture: PA MediaPicture: PA Media
Picture: PA Media

In an update to parliament on Wednesday, the First Minister said the number of new cases in under 14s had risen by 44 per cent in the last week.

She said: “While that is a significant increase, it represents a significant slowing in the rate of increase from the previous week, when cases in that age group increased by more than 150 per cent.

"Cases in the 25 to 44 year old age band have also continued to rise, but again the rate of increase has slowed quite considerably. It was 6 per cent in the most recent week, compared to almost 70 per cent in the week before."

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She added: “The rate of increase has slowed - and that may well suggest that the appeal to individuals and businesses over the past two weeks to improve compliance with basic mitigations and be more cautious in our everyday behaviours, is having some impact.”

The numbers of people in hospital and intensive care continue to rise, with 883 people in hospital with Covid and 82 in intensive care.

Conservative leader Douglas Ross accused the First Minister of not being ready to support the NHS in autumn and winter.

"Our NHS is struggling to cope. This week’s accident and emergency waiting times are at the worst levels since current records began,” he said.

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"We consistently hear of dire waits for people looking to get an ambulance and people who are unable to see their general practitioner. The Scottish National Party does not seem ready to support the NHS this autumn, let alone into the winter, when we know that the problems will get even more acute. We really need from the First Minister a proper plan to deal with those issues, not the flimsy public-relations pamphlet that the SNP Government produced earlier this year.”

Ms Sturgeon refused to rule out the possibility of further restrictions in winter.

“The levels of infection across the country - albeit that we may be seeing some potential and very welcome signs of stabilisation - remain far too high,” she said.

"That is why we must continue to monitor the situation very closely and be prepared – as any responsible government must be - to take any targeted and proportionate action that we consider necessary to keep the country as safe as possible.”

Several opposition MSPs called for improvements to Scotland’s contact tracing system in the wake of rising cases.

Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton called for an “emergency recruitment drive”, while Labour’s Anas Sarwar warned the system is “still far from meeting its standard”.

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