Coronavirus Scotland: Jason Leitch says full football stadiums and musical festivals possible in August

Scottish football fans have been told they could be back in full stadiums for matches from August 10.

The Scottish Government’s national clinical director, Professor Jason Leitch has also said music festivals could be back on from the same date under the country’s lockdown easing timetable.

However, he admitted that being definitive about dates was “making him sweat”.

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In a recent statement in the Scottish Parliament, the First Minister said the government wanted the whole country to move to level zero from July 19, with legal curbs to end from August 9.

Professor Jason Leitch has said football fans could be back in full stadiums in two months.

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Currently football matches and other sports face spectator restrictions, but speaking on the BBC’s Sunday Show Prof Leitch said that with physical distancing being removed in August, so would limits on sport.

Asked if that meant football fans could return to full stadiums, he said: “They can on August 10th, but we’ve had to learn that new word remember, that ‘indicative’ word.

"So we have given advice that says ‘with a fair wind, the trajectory we are presently on, with vaccinations … we’re currently vaccinating 3,000 people every ten days’… this six weeks buys us quite a lot of vaccine time.

“So if we can get that in, and people come, that’s the important thing that people can do, then yes we hope that August 9th/10th can happen.”

Asked again if music festivals and football would be back on, he said: “Yes, but you are making me sweat.”

Plans to remove social distancing on August 10, he said, should be written in “pencil, not Sharpie marker”.

“The plan is dependent on where things are,” he said.

"We want to move to level zero as a whole country, removing physical distancing indoors, but keeping a lid on event size in July.

"Then on August 9 the level system disappears unless there are particular hot spots and maybe vaccination slows down for some reason – and I’m not expecting that – so it’s a little bit indicative.”

Prof Leitch also said the link between Covid infection cases and hospitalisation had not been broken by vaccination, but the “chain was elongating”.

He said: “That period at Christmas when we opened and got a nasty transmissable variant, Alpha, saw people lose their lives, and now coincidentally when we open again we get another, this time Delta.

"But the difference is vaccination, so we have a weapon which we didn't have last year and so that has changed the equation between cases and hospitalisation.

“We’ve always said look at cases, but also further down the chain.

"In the morning we get the case number and mid-morning the hospitalisation number, that is becoming more crucial. But we also need to know how long people are in, what age they are, are the progressing to intensive care, and the answer is no in the main.

“So previously 1,000 cases would give you 100 in hospital and ten deaths, a tragic number. Now 1,000 cases probably gets you 30 people in hospital and very low numbers of deaths.”

Prof Leitch also said vaccination allowed a “difference in response” to outbreaks and there could be a move away from “isolating cases”.

"Let’s not forget this is still a horrible condition, but the science is beginning to look like we might be able to replace strict contact self isolation maybe with routine testing,” he said.

"There are two big trials going on with 40,000 people, one on travel isolation, one on community isolation, looking at what if we move away from strict self contact tracing isolation to lateral flow tests every day for ten days.”

He said the trial results could help manage outbreaks in schools.

“Over the summer, before schools go back some decisions will be made about what that isolation might look like,” he said.

"Kids have had their schooling affected for two years now. A third year of that feels unthinkable.”

But he added: “I don't think school age kids will be vaccinated in the summer, but we will get advice. I don't think it will be blanket, I think they will do it by risk as they have previously.”

On the show he was also asked about the revelation that hundreds of Scottish women had wrongly not been called for cervical cancer screening, with one woman known to have developed the cancer and died as a result.

The announcement was made by the Scottish Government on the final day of Holyrood sitting before it broke for summer recess, despite the government knowing of the mistake back in March.

Asked when he first knew of the issue, Prof Leitch said: "A few months ago when we got the first sign from the audit, 9th March I think, that there were cases that hadn’t followed the process.

"That day [the government] set up an adverse management team, a group of experts, gynaecologists and obstetricians and screening experts, and very quickly they began to review each case and we contacted people.”

Asked if a delay since March had put lives at risk, Prof Leitch said: “When you’re making clinical choices, you have to know what you’re going to say to the women and the scale of the challenge.

"This went back to 1997, complex medical forms, complex notes and we had to be certain – 434 women have been contacted this week, five of whom caused the flag to rise.

"And it’s a horrible thing and I can only imagine the distress and anxiety it has caused, and I’m deeply sorry on behalf of my clinical colleagues that this has happened to them.”

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