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Coronavirus in Scotland LIVE: The latest updates on Friday, April 23
Last updated: Friday, 23 April, 2021, 14:11
- Scotland records 255 new Covid cases on Friday - and one further death
- Human-to-cat Covid-19 transmission identified by scientists
- Travel curbs come into force as India added to red list
Scotland records 255 new Covid cases on Friday - and one further death
International travel this summer challenging, warns Leitch
Foreign summer holidays this year will be challenging, Scotland’s national clinical director has said.
Officials in Scotland are currently working on a “digital solution” to how to prove who has been tested and vaccinated against coronavirus, and how that could potentially assist the reopening of society.
Professor Jason Leitch said the question of what such “Covid certification” would allow you to do is one for politicians and policy makers, and airlines.
He said there have been high levels of cases recently in countries such as India, Estonia, Hungary and Bulgaria, and he warned “we’ve got to be careful, we don’t want to burst what we’ve achieved”.
He told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme on Friday: “I think international leisure travel in the summer will be challenging.
“I’m hopeful that some of it might exist, I would like to go, I’m hopeful that bits of that will exist, I think it will be gradual, I don’t think it will be suddenly we’re all back to normal, all bets are off, we can all go to the beach.
“I think there will be time and countries that we bring back gradually because it’s crucial both for individuals and society but it’s also crucial for the industries that rely on that travel, the airlines, the travel industry more broadly.”
Vaccine certificate work should be halted until after election, says Rennie
Work on a coronavirus vaccine certification system should be put on hold until Parliament has had a chance to debate it, Willie Rennie has said.
The Scottish Liberal Democrat leader’s comments came after he took an “invigorating” karate lesson in the Meadows, Edinburgh, as campaigning continues for the election on May 6.
The Scottish Government is working on a digital system which would allow people to prove their Covid vaccination status and provide other data, in preparation for an international requirement for so-called Covid passports.
Speaking to the PA news agency on Friday, Mr Rennie said: “I think the plan should be delayed at least until we get a chance to debate it properly in the Parliament, to explore how far this is going to go.
“I think it’s going to be an expensive administrative process and it’s also going to divide society.
“Lots of people have made huge sacrifices over the last year but they’ve also not had the vaccine, so why should they be left out of accessing wider services?
“So let’s call a halt to this just now until we can have a wider debate in Parliament.”
David Beckham leads global vaccine drive along with charity Unicef
David Beckham has partnered with charity Unicef to lead a global vaccination drive.
Beckham, a goodwill ambassador for the charity, said that the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has “reminded us about the power of vaccines”.
In a video released ahead of World Immunisation Week, the former footballer urged families to ensure that their children are receiving routine vaccines to protect them against diseases such as diphtheria, measles and polio.
“In the last year, Covid-19 has shown us how much we take for granted but it has also reminded us about the power of vaccines,” Beckham said.
“Vaccines work, saving millions of lives every year. I have learned through my work with Unicef just how important they are for the health of our loved ones.
“Too many children around the world don’t get the routine vaccines they need to be safe from deadly diseases.”
Beckham will be joined by other celebrities including Orlando Bloom, Olivia Colman and Jessie Ware, who will be taking part in a series of online conversations about vaccines.
Covid spending pushes deficit to highest levels since Second World War
The huge sums that the Government has borrowed during the Covid-19 crisis have pushed the deficit to its highest point since the end of the Second World War, according to new figures.
The Office for National Statistics said that public sector net borrowing – the Government’s deficit – reached £303.1 billion in the financial year to the end of March.
This was 14.5% of gross domestic product (GDP), the highest level since 1946, when the deficit hit 15.2% of GDP.
It is a rise from a deficit of £57 billion in the tax year ending March 2020.
In the post-war era the deficit peaked in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, hitting around 10% of GDP. The average deficit since 1970 has been 3.4% of GDP.
The last year’s borrowing pushed public sector net debt up to £2,141.7 billion, which is 97.7% of GDP – the biggest proportion since the early 1960s.
The Government has spent billions of pounds propping up the economy since the pandemic started more than a year ago.
Notably it covered salaries of staff whose workplaces closed down during the country’s many lockdowns.
The furlough scheme has so far cost the taxpayer around £58 billion, according to data from last month.
Vaccines slash Covid infections ‘and are likely to cut transmission’
Vaccines should be able to control the Covid-19 pandemic, experts have said, as they published new real-world UK data showing jabs slash infection and are likely to cut transmission.
Just one dose of either the Pfizer/BioNTech or AstraZeneca vaccines leads to a two-thirds drop in coronavirus cases and is 74% effective against symptomatic infection.
After two doses of Pfizer, there was a 70% reduction in all cases and a 90% drop in symptomatic cases – these are the people who are most likely to transmit coronavirus to others.
Experts are still collecting data on two doses of AstraZeneca but say their findings show that both vaccines work and are effective in the real world.
One of the new studies, which has yet to be peer-reviewed, is based on data from the national Covid-19 Infection Survey run by the University of Oxford and the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
It included a random sample of more than 373,000 adults from across the UK, who produced more than 1.6 million swab test results between December and April.
Professor Sarah Walker, from the University of Oxford and chief investigator for the survey, said the study suggested vaccines could reduce transmission and were also effective against the Kent variant of coronavirus.
She said: “Showing that the benefits are greater both for people with high viral load and for people with symptoms, both of whom have probably got the greatest chance of onward transmission, was really not necessarily something I was expecting and… I was pleasantly surprised.”
Travel curbs come into force as India added to red list
Passengers on flights into the UK from India must now enter hotel quarantine as the country is officially added to the UK’s coronavirus travel red list.
As of 4am on Friday, people returning from India must quarantine in a Government-approved hotel for 10 days, while anyone who is not a UK or Irish resident or a British citizen will be banned from entering the country if they have been in India in the previous 10 days.
Four airlines asked for a total of eight extra flights to arrive at Heathrow before the 4am cut-off, however it is understood Heathrow declined the airlines’ requests to ensure existing pressures at the border were not exacerbated.
The restrictions come in response to mounting concern about the number of coronavirus cases in India and the emergence there of a variant of the virus.
The variant – also known as B.1.617 – was first noted internationally in October and first identified in the UK on February 22.
It has 13 mutations including two in the virus’ spike protein known as E494Q and L452R.
Human-to-cat Covid-19 transmission identified by scientists
Two cases of human-to-cat transmission of Covid-19 have been identified by researchers.
Scientists from the University of Glasgow found the cases of SARS-CoV-2 transmission as part of a screening programme of the feline population in the UK.
The cats, of different breeds, were living in separate households and displayed mild to severe respiratory signs.
Researchers believe both pets were infected by their owners, who had Covid-19 symptoms before the cats became unwell.
The study, published in the Veterinary Record, said there is currently no evidence of cat-to-human transmission or that cats, dogs or other domestic animals play any appreciable role in the epidemiology of human Covid infections.
But the scientists said domestic animals could potentially act as a “viral reservoir” allowing continued transmission, and said it is important to improve understanding of whether pets can play a role in infecting humans.
Professor Margaret Hosie, from the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research and lead author of the study, said: “These two cases of human-to-animal transmission, found in the feline population in the UK, demonstrate why it is important that we improve our understanding of animal SARS-CoV-2 infection.
“Currently, animal-to-human transmission represents a relatively low risk to public health in areas where human-to-human transmission remains high.
“However as human cases decrease, the prospect of transmission among animals becomes increasingly important as a potential source of SARS-CoV-2 reintroduction to humans.
“It is therefore important to improve our understanding of whether exposed animals could play any role in transmission.”
Researchers at the centre worked in partnership with the Veterinary Diagnostic Service (VDS) at the university’s School of Veterinary Medicine on the study.
The first cat was a four-month-old female Ragdoll kitten from a household in which the owner developed symptoms that were consistent with SARS-CoV-2 infection at the end of March 2020, although they were not tested.
The kitten was taken to a vet with breathing difficulties in April 2020 but its condition deteriorated and it later had to be put down.
Post-mortem lung samples revealed damage consistent with a viral pneumonia and there was evidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection.
The second cat was a six-year-old female Siamese from a household where one owner tested positive for Covid-19.
The cat was taken to the vet with nasal discharge and conjunctivitis, but its symptoms remained mild and the cat later recovered.
Covid-19 infection was confirmed in a retrospective survey of swabs submitted to VDS between March and July 2020 for routine pathogen testing.
Scientists believe the two cases are likely to be an underestimate of the true frequency of human-to-animal transmission, as animal testing is limited.
It is not known whether cats with Covid-19 could naturally transmit the virus to other animals, or back to humans.