Covid Scotland: Health secretary Humza Yousaf issues apology for causing ‘undue alarm’ over soft play child Covid claims

Humza Yousaf has spoken of his “regret” at causing “undue alarm” by suggesting that a growing number of children in Scotland are being taken to hospital with Covid-19.

On Wednesday, Scotland’s health secretary said in a statement that ten children up to the age of nine had been admitted to hospital last week “because of Covid”.

Posting on social media, Mr Yousaf said he never meant “to cause undue alarm amongst parents” when he used the figure to warn against travelling to councils where soft play areas reopen.

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Mr Yousaf had also claimed visiting soft play “could lead to the hospitalisation of children”.

In a series of Twitter posts, Mr Yousaf wrote: “My quoting of these figures was in response to a question about a parent wanting to take their child from a Level 2 area to soft play in a Level 1 area. My clear msg was plz don't take any risks. It certainly wasn't my intention to create any undue alarm.

“Yes, you can travel between Level 1 & Level 2 areas, but soft play is not open in Level 2 because we judge the risk too high.

“Again, my main message was to urge caution, not to cause any undue alarm. I regret if that was the case.”

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Scotland’s Health Secretary Humza Yousaf.Scotland’s Health Secretary Humza Yousaf.
Scotland’s Health Secretary Humza Yousaf.

Mr Yousaf’s original comments on Wednesday came as Deputy First Minister John Swinney said that numbers of children in hospital are currently “on the high side” compared to previous figures.

The warnings angered senior clinicians, who said there was no evidence to back up the claims that children faced a heightened risk.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) has said it is not concerned about a rise in numbers of children in hospital, and that parents should not be worried.

It is worth noting that some increase in the proportion of younger people affected by Covid-19 is to be expected as they are still unvaccinated while older people have more protection.

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Children are also more likely to be hospitalised for other issues now, with lockdowns easing, such as broken bones from more activities, or routine operations which had been postponed. This puts them at risk of catching Covid in hospital, and these cases are also included in reporting figures.

“Parents shouldn't worry,” said Dr Steve Turner, registrar at the RCPCH and consultant paediatrician at Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital.

He said: "As it stands there are very few children in hospital in Scotland and across the whole of the UK due to Covid.

"We're not seeing any evidence of an increase in paediatric admissions with Covid. A very small number of admissions who test positive for Covid is what we'd expect.

"Our experience over the last 15 months is that many children who test positive have come into hospital for something else, like broken bones. At the moment the situation in the UK is stable. The number of children in hospital with Covid remains very low.”

The Scottish Government has not been able to give any more information about how numbers of children in hospital during the Covid-19 pandemic have changed.

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