Covid Scotland: Health board bosses fear this week could be worst since start of pandemic

Health board bosses believe this week could be the worst since the beginning of the pandemic, the First Minister and health secretary have said.

A recent spike in cases led to the number of people being admitted to hospital and testing positive for the virus rising to 2,038 on Wednesday, up from 1,191 at the beginning of the month.

But Deputy First Minister John Swinney told MSPs on Thursday that Scotland had “passed the peak” of the latest spike.

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Health secretary Humza Yousaf. Picture: Peter Summers/Getty Images

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Speaking during First Minster’s Questions later the same day, Nicola Sturgeon said: “It is possible, in terms of impact on our NHS, this week will be perhaps the toughest in the pandemic so far and everyone who is working to help us through is doing a sterling job and they have the deep gratitude of me and this Government.”

Health secretary Humza Yousaf made similar comments when he appeared before the Covid-19 Recovery Committee earlier, saying: “I’m not speaking out of turn by saying, in the conversations that I’ve had in the course of this week with health boards and my officials have had this week, many of the health boards have given us the consistent message that they feel that this week is probably the toughest week they have faced in the course of the pandemic.

“We haven’t had today’s numbers, they haven’t been published yet, in terms of those in hospital with Covid, but yesterday’s numbers – just under 2,000 – add to that a high level of delayed discharge.”

Given the “scale of outbreak” in Scotland, Mr Yousaf added, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde reported it was unable to discharge patients into care homes, leading to bed blocking.

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“As well as the accumulated pressure this week, it looks like it’s shaping up to be if not the worst week or the most challenging week of the pandemic, then certainly one of the most challenging,” he said.

Later in the same committee meeting, Mr Swinney gave evidence about Scottish Government plans announced on Tuesday that will see most testing scrapped at the end of April, while the legal requirement to wear face coverings in some public places and on public transport will remain.

Asked by fellow SNP MSP Jim Fairlie if he is confident in the changes given the recent spike in cases, Mr Swinney said: “We believe that we’re past the peak of the BA.2 variant.

“We see that in the number of cases, we see it in hospital admissions – though the numbers in hospital are high, they’re not being added to with the same vigour as was the case before.

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“I would contend that, in the face of the evidence Mr Fairlie puts to me, the Government has taken prudent steps to deal with that.

“If we had gone ahead and removed the legal obligation around face coverings on Monday, then I think Mr Fairlie would have legitimate additional questions to put to me.

“We took that decision to some controversy – a number of people are kicking off about it – but, in my view, it was the responsible thing for us to do.”

According to the latest data released by the Government on Thursday afternoon, Scotland recorded 28 coronavirus-linked deaths in the past 24 hours.

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