Covid Scotland: New record as one in 14 people have virus and hospitalisations near all-time high

Covid infection levels have reached an all-time high and the number of people in hospital with the virus is just three shy of the previous record, as one biologist described the tighter protection measures in Scotland compared to England as "meaningless”.

It comes after health secretary Humza Yousaf said this week may be the "toughest” some health boards have ever faced.

Some 2,050 people are now in hospital with Covid, just three below the all-time high of 2,053 recorded in January 2021.

And one in 14 people had the virus in the week to March 12, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) infection survey, the highest infection level since the survey began in Autumn 2020.

Picture: Lisa Ferguson

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A total of 376,300 were thought to be infected, up from 299,900, or one in 18, the previous week.

Devi Sridhar, Professor of Global Public Health at Edinburgh University, called the latest figures “eye-watering high”.

James Naismith, Professor of Structural Biology at Oxford University, said the prevalence of Covid in Scotland is “quite remarkable”, and testament to the infectivity of the Omicron subvariant BA.2.

He added that he expects “almost everyone susceptible” in the UK will be infected, and differences between protection measures in Scotland and England are “meaningless”.

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“Prevalence in Scotland is quite remarkable, 71 per 1000 people, and testament to the infectivity of the new strain. It is dramatically improved compared to the original strain,” he said.

“England is not far behind with 50 per 1000; I would expect England to match Scotland. The reality is that differences in control measures between the countries are meaningless.”

Prof Naismith added: “Prevalence is increasing in every area and across age groups. Without vaccines, this would be bleak for the this country. Countries with poor vaccination rates face a very challenging future.

“At this level of prevalence and the decision not to halt the spread, the most likely outcome is that almost everyone who is susceptible is going to be infected.

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“For the UK, my main concern is for the vulnerable for whom this disease is serious and for those whose lives will be blighted by Long Covid-19.

“Every effort must be made to triple vaccinate as many people as possible, quadruple vaccinate the most vulnerable and make available antivirals.”

In England the ONS estimated that around one in 20 people had Covid last week, while in Wales the figure was one in 25, and in Northern Ireland it was also one in 14.

The ONS described the trend in Northern Ireland as “uncertain”.

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A total of 18,124 new cases of Covid were reported on Friday, but this covered more than a 24 hour period due to previous technical issues.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said current public health measures are being kept under review, and any changes will be announced to parliament.

“We are seeing an increase in cases in Scotland due to the dominance of the more transmissible Omicron BA.2 variant, and inevitably as people mix more, the virus transmits more,” they said.

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“Covid-19 has not gone away. People should remain vigilant and careful, particularly around people who are more vulnerable. Vaccination is still be the best way to protect yourself against severe disease and those called forward for boosters should do so.”

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