Coronavirus in Scotland RECAP: Hospital visiting to restart from April 26 as Scotland records eight Covid deaths and 655 new cases

Live updates on Covid-19 in Scotland, the UK, and around the world.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman leads Friday's Scottish Government Covid-19 briefing.

Follow along here to stay up-to-date with the latest developments on Friday, March 19.

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Coronavirus in Scotland LIVE: The latest updates on Thursday, March 18

Last updated: Thursday, 18 March, 2021, 12:37

  • 655 new Covid cases reported in Scotland on Friday - and eight further deaths
  • Majority of vulnerable families fear for mental health
  • Landmark as two million receive first dose of Covid vaccine

UK halfway to net zero as emissions tumble 11% in pandemic, says analysis

The UK is halfway to cutting its greenhouse gas emissions to net zero after a record annual fall in pollution during the pandemic, analysis shows.

But emissions are likely to increase as the economy recovers, highlighting the challenge in cutting carbon in areas such as transport and housing to meet the goal to end the UK’s contribution to climate change by 2050.

The assessment by climate and energy website Carbon Brief estimates that UK greenhouse gases fell by 11% in 2020, the biggest annual fall in at least 30 years and a bigger drop than after the global financial crisis in 2009.

The significant reduction in 2020 means the UK has seen emissions fall 51% since 1990, the benchmark year for measuring greenhouse gas reductions under laws to tackle the climate crisis.

The law requires the UK to cut greenhouse gases to net zero by 2050 – a 100% reduction on 1990 levels – by reducing emissions as much as possible and taking steps such as planting trees to offset any remaining pollution.

Last year marked the halfway point in the 60-year period to achieve net zero, and the analysis showed emissions were down more than half, from 794 million tonnes of greenhouse gases in 1990 to 389 million tonnes in 2020.

But last year’s falls, which helped push UK emission cuts past the halfway point, were largely the result of lockdown reducing car use and gas-powered electricity, as well as warmer weather that cut heating demand, analysts said.

Majority of vulnerable families fear for mental health, report claims

Almost three-quarters of staff at a children’s charity in Scotland have reported fears from vulnerable families over mental health during the pandemic, according to a new report.

Action for Children carried out interviews with more than 100 of its frontline workers, with the findings published in its manifesto ahead of the 2021 Holyrood election.

It found 74% of staff relayed that families feared for their mental health as the biggest concern while 40% said they worried about their children falling behind with education.

Paul Carberry, Action for Children’s director for Scotland, said: “As we approach the first anniversary of lockdown, our research shows the damaging impact these last 12 months have had on the most vulnerable in society.

“Sadly, the longer this pandemic has lasted, the more and more families who now find themselves in crisis.

“We are seeing that extreme family stress and strain is the price, children and young people are paying.

“Action for Children has detailed a road map for political parties to follow so they can deliver that resilience generation Scotland needs to thrive.

“The pandemic has accelerated the need to make fundamental changes. Across Scotland, many families are in crisis and, tragically, vulnerable children are paying the price.”

Landmark as two million receive first dose of Covid vaccine

More than two million people have received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine in Scotland, the Scottish Government has said.

The milestone was met on Wednesday, a week before the first anniversary of the UK being placed into the first lockdown.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that “virtually all” of those over the age of 65 had received their first dose, along with 67% of 60 to 64-year-olds, 42% of 55 to 59-year-olds and 34% of 50 to 54-year-olds.

All over-50s, unpaid carers and adults with certain underlying health conditions, are expected to have been invited for vaccination by mid-April, the First Minister said.

Labour leader Starmer to thank healthcare workers during visit to Scotland

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer will visit Edinburgh and Glasgow alongside the party’s Scottish leader Anas Sarwar to meet and thank frontline healthcare workers on Thursday and Friday.

Speaking ahead of the trip, Sir Keir echoed Mr Sarwar’s calls for a “national recovery” from the pandemic, with a focus on jobs, the climate, education, communities and NHS recovery.

It will be Sir Keir’s first visit to Scotland since Mr Sarwar’s election as Scottish Labour leader last month, and the pair will argue that recovering from the impacts of coronavirus must be the priority, rather than another Scottish independence referendum.

Sir Keir said: “First and foremost, today is about paying tribute to the NHS staff across Scotland who have been on the frontline of this pandemic.

“They have battled Covid heroically, and now they are helping defeat it by rolling out the vaccine.

“Once this virus is beaten, Scotland’s recovery must be the number one priority for its Government. That’s what Anas Sarwar and Scottish Labour are offering in May’s election.

“Scottish Labour, under Anas’s leadership, is the only party serious about tackling the injustices which have been brutally exposed by Covid.

“Whether it’s education, the economy, or Scotland’s NHS, a vote for Scottish Labour in May is a vote to secure Scotland’s recovery.”

The Gym Group sinks to £47m loss as Covid takes its toll

The Gym Group has sunk to a £47.2 million loss in 2020 as Covid-related restrictions hit the company, with its gyms forced to close for large swathes of the year.

Bosses said they remained focused on reopening sites in England from April 12 and April 26 in Scotland and have retained more members during the current lockdown than previously.

They added that 97% of current members say they expect to return to the gym as soon as possible, with 75% saying fitness will be more important to them than before the pandemic.

The slump into the red follows a £6.2 million profit in 2019, with revenues falling 47.4% in 2020 to £80 million.

Chief executive Richard Darwin said: “During 2020 we demonstrated the resilience of our business and its culture even in the most challenging of times.

“By freezing subscriptions when closed and by providing an excellent Covid-secure environment in our gyms when open, we have retained most of our members.”

UK halfway to net zero as emissions tumble 11% in pandemic, analysis shows

The UK is halfway to cutting its greenhouse gas emissions to net zero after a record annual fall in pollution during the pandemic, analysis shows.

But emissions are likely to increase as the economy recovers, highlighting the challenge in cutting carbon in areas such as transport and housing to meet the goal to end the UK’s contribution to climate change by 2050.

The assessment by climate and energy website Carbon Brief estimates UK greenhouse gases fell by 11% in 2020, the biggest annual fall in at least 30 years and a bigger drop than after the global financial crisis in 2009.

The significant reduction in 2020 means the UK has seen emissions fall 51% since 1990, the benchmark year for measuring greenhouse gas reductions under laws to tackle the climate crisis.

The law requires the UK to cut greenhouse gases to net zero by 2050 – a 100% reduction on 1990 levels – by reducing emissions as much as possible and taking steps such as planting trees to offset any remaining pollution.

A mass vaccination centre at Belfast’s SSE Arena is due to open at the end of March.

A total of 39,118 people tested positive for Covid-19 in England at least once in the week to March 10, according to the latest Test and Trace figures.

Dr Hans Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe, said that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine “far outweigh its risk” and its use “should continue to save lives”.

There have been a further 297 cases of coronavirus in Wales, taking the total number of confirmed cases to 207,237.

Vaccine passports: how will EU Covid jab travel certificates work, will Brits be eligible - and when could they be approved?

Risk of Covid reinfection is low - but over-65s are most at risk

Risk of Covid reinfection is low - but over-65s are most at risk

The majority of people who catch Covid-19 will be protected for at least six months, although those over-65 are more vulnerable to reinfection, according to a new study

Scotland records seven deaths and 624 new cases on Thursday

Nicola Sturgeon: "Yesterday, 624 new Covid cases were reported, which is 2.7% of all the tests that were carried out yesterday, and the overall number of confirmed cases now stands at 211,854."

Scotland records seven deaths and 624 new cases on Thursday

Scotland has recorded seven deaths from coronavirus and 624 positive tests in the past 24 hours, Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed.

It brings the death toll under this measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – to 7,536.

Speaking ahead of First Minister’s Questions, she told MSPs 211,854 people have now tested positive in Scotland, up from 211,230 on Tuesday.

The daily test positivity rate is 2.7%, down from 3% on the previous day.

There are 405 people in hospital confirmed to have the virus, down 17 in 24 hours, and 38 patients are in intensive care, no change on the previous day.

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