Covid pandemic could end 'within months' in UK as Nicola Sturgeon set to make restrictions announcement

Coronavirus vaccines should allow Scotland to manage the Covid pandemic “less restrictively”, Nicola Sturgeon has declared, as she prepares to announce today what parts of Scotland will face a renewed easing of lockdown.

In continued signs of a change in policy direction, the First Minister yesterday praised an article by public health professor Devi Sridhar, who argued that people in Britain could see the end of the pandemic “within months, if not weeks” because of the vaccine rollout progress.

Posting on Twitter, Ms Sturgeon said she hoped Scotland was in a “transition” out of lockdown, with the impact of the vaccination programme providing “an ability to manage Covid differently and less restrictively”.

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Coronavirus in Scotland: Warning not all areas will move to Level 1 as cases cau...

Her statement came as health secretary Humza Yousaf warned Covid restrictions may not be relaxed in all parts of Scotland next week.

Areas in level two are due to move to level one next week under the road map for lockdown easing – a step that would allow greater numbers of people to socialise and venues such as soft play centres to reopen.

Glasgow City is the only part of Scotland still in level three restrictions.

However, speaking yesterday Mr Yousaf said it may not be possible for restrictions to be eased in all areas on June 7.

Patrons at a bar in Edinburgh. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

He told BBC’s Good Morning Scotland: “I must be quite frank, there’s other parts of the country that, clearly from the data, give us cause for concern.”

Mr Yousaf added: "It may not be the entire country moving to level one.

"I think people would understand where there are rising case numbers, where there is rising test positivity ... it may be the case that parts of the country move to level one, but actually other parts of the country we decide to keep in level two."

Renfrewshire, Dundee, Edinburgh and Midlothian are among council areas where Covid rates have all climbed above the existing level two threshold.

Edinburgh have recorded 401 new cases in the past seven days, while Renfrewshire and East Renfrewshire both currently have case rates higher than Glasgow.

However, Mr Yousaf said case rates were not the only "metrics" being considered in reaching decisions.

The First Minister, who is due to update the Scottish Parliament on the move to level one today, has previously indicated there is now a focus on how the India variant is having an impact on hospital admissions and serious illness in deciding restrictions.

And in a cause for optimism, particularly for Glasgow hospitality businesses who remain crippled by the toughest Covid restrictions in the UK, Ms Sturgeon shared an article by Prof Sridhar discussing the ongoing easing of lockdown restrictions.

Prof Sridhar argued that throughout history “pandemics have ended when the disease ceases to dominate daily life and retreats into the background” and citizens of richer countries such as the UK and the US could experience this soon.

But she stressed that poorer countries who may struggle to afford vaccines, technology or treatments for Covid-19 “will remain trapped by outbreaks that cause chaos in hospitals and kill health workers and vulnerable and elderly people”.

Prof Sridhar, who is chair of global public health at the University of Edinburgh, said: “It’s now incumbent on richer countries that are emerging from the pandemic to turn their attention to poorer nations and ensure they have the resources they urgently require.

“It’s only when Covid-19 stops disrupting lives and livelihoods in all regions that we’ll truly be able to say the pandemic has ended.”

She also warned of “considerable uncertainty” about the prospect of new variants and how to manage the virus in children and young people “who will be largely unvaccinated and still susceptible”.

Sharing the article on Twitter, Ms Sturgeon wrote: “V good piece by @devisridhar on how vaccines open a path from the elimination approach advocated by many in earlier phase, to an ability to manage Covid differently and less restrictively.

“It’s a transition as we complete vaccination, but this is the path I hope Scotland is on.”

The comments came as as Scotland recorded 490 new cases of coronavirus – 4.2 per cent of all tests – with one new death.

A total of 3,251,138 Scots have now received the first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine and 2,044,253 have received their second dose.

Mr Yousaf said there had been a “drastic” fall in the number of people failing to turn up for their coronavirus vaccine appointments at SSE Hydro arena in Glasgow.

He said he was encouraged by the numbers as the Scottish Government said the high rate of “did not attends” – or “DNAs” – at the SSE Hydro during the weekend of May 22 and 23 was centred on the 40 to 49-year-old age group.

An investigation was launched after up to half of patients booked into an appointment at the Hydro that weekend failed to attend it.

The centre can give around 4,000 vaccinations a day.

During the same weekend up to 25 per cent of patients failed to attend vaccination appointments at the Royal Highland Centre in Edinburgh.

The Scottish Government said that following the investigation, the no-shows had been linked to the 40 to 49-year-old age group, which has had lower uptake overall during the vaccination programme.

NHS Greater Glasgow on Clyde said it could not identify a particular cause of the no-shows.

A spokesperson said: “While there is no one driving factor behind the DNAs on the weekend of 22 May, we are pleased to see initiatives including the drop-in service, the mobile vaccination bus which complement the scheduled appointment system have helped reduce the chance of DNAs across sites and ensure everyone over 40 waiting to receive their first jag, and anyone else who has been waiting more than ten weeks to get their second AZ jag, can do so at their earliest convenience.”

The rate of no-shows during the weekend of May 29 and 30 was 12 per cent.

The spokesperson added: "We’d like to thank everyone who came out and rolled up their sleeve this past weekend. Between Saturday and Sunday we saw 4,965 vaccines administered at the Hydro through a combination of appointments and drop-ins – the latter service operating on the Sunday.”

A separate spokesperson said the Scottish Government was working to allow people to get vaccination appointments in the most convenient ways.

“The DNA (‘did not attend’) rate in Glasgow [the] weekend of 22 and 23 May was largely centred around the 40-49-year-old age range, which has had lower uptake overall,” they said.

“To keep suppressing the virus and keep everyone safe we need anyone who didn’t attend to make a new appointment and come back, or attend a drop-in clinic.

“We’re working to make it even easier for people to get appointments at the most convenient times and places.”

The Scottish Government issued an apology last week after a delay in sending out vaccination invitations due to an error with the appointment system.

Across Scotland, some 84 per cent of those in the 40 to 49-year-old age group have been given a first dose of vaccine, while 26 per cent have been given a second.

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