Covid Scotland: Case numbers and hospitalisations to be published less often as pandemic becomes 'calmer'

The Scottish Government will begin to publish figures on new Covid cases, hospitalisations and vaccinations less often as the Scottish Government plans for a “sustained return to normal”.

The figures will no longer be published at weekends, the First Minister told MSPs on Tuesday, reflecting “less of a requirement for immediate data”.

The Government’s revised strategic framework for dealing with the pandemic will be published on February 22, Ms Sturgeon said, and will outline a route to return to “normal”. MSPs will then be able to debate and vote on it.

The First Minister also confirmed all current measures, including the requirement for Covid certification and face coverings in secondary schools, will remain for now.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon during First Minster's Questions at the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood, Edinburgh. Picture date: Thursday February 3, 2022.

The Advisory Sub-group on Education met later on Tuesday and considered the continued evidence around face coverings in schools. Minutes of their meeting are yet to be published.

It comes as 6,630 new cases of Covid were announced in Scotland.

Some 950 people are in hospital with Covid, while 18 are in intensive care. A further 14 deaths were reported.

The Scottish Conservatives have called for an end to all restrictions, including face coverings in schools, vaccine passports and contact tracing requirements.

Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary Dr Sandesh Gulhane said the Government had been too slow to publish its revised strategic framework and outlined plans suggested by his own party.

“Today we have published our own blueprint for starting to move beyond Covid,” he said.

"Our policy paper contains a series of recommendations for protecting public services and accelerating Scotland's recovery from the pandemic.

"We believe it's time to move on from blanket legal restrictions to an approach that emphasises personal responsibility.

"We must get Scotland back as close to normal for as many people as possible."

Dr Gulhane added: “The mandate for face masks in classrooms is continuing to hamper young people's education. Pupils are wearing their masks for seven hours a day … does the First Minister not appreciate what the Government is putting kids through by keeping this rule in place?”

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Mr Gulhane also called for a network of long Covid clinics, five months after the Scottish Government published its long Covid strategy.

The new strategic framework will outline a “sustained return to normal”, Ms Sturgeon said.

“After almost two years of this ordeal, I know getting back to normal for short periods followed by further disruption to our lives is not what any of us want,” she said.

"A return to normal that is sustained is what we want and are striving for. That is what the updated strategic framework will be aiming to support.

"However, we can all help keep things on a more even keel now by taking all the reasonably straightforward precautions that we continue to advise.”

Scottish Labour called on the Government to reduce continuing restrictions on care homes, saying there had been “too little sign of progress” on the issue.

Party leader Anas Sarwar said: "Nowhere has there been greater feelings during this pandemic than in our care homes, but yet again, no mention of care homes in the First Minister's statement.”

He added: “We know the harm caused by keeping care home residents cruelly cut off from their loved ones, but even now families are being locked out.

“Residents testing positive are still required to isolate for ten days and homes with outbreaks must close for 14 days, with only named visitors allowed.”

Ms Sturgeon said the “balances” between reducing restrictions and keeping residents safe are under careful consideration.

The First Minister also gave an update on the new sub-variant of Omicron, BA.2.

A total of 103 cases have now been confirmed in Scotland, but this is believed to be an underestimate.

"Encouragingly, there remains no evidence at this stage that the disease caused by the BA.2 subtype is any more severe than that caused by the main Omicron variant,” Ms Sturgeon said.

"Nor does it appear to be any more capable of evading the immunity conferred by vaccination or prior infection.

"However, there is evidence, from more than one country now, of a growth advantage for BA.2 compared to the main Omicron variant, which may mean it is more transmissible.

"All in all, however, there are no grounds at this stage for any significant concern about BA.2 – and no reason to change our approach in response to it. We will, though, continue to monitor it carefully.”

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