Covid Scotland: Level 2 restrictions will be removed at 'different speeds', says Humza Yousaf

Parts of Scotland that have been kept under level two Covid restrictions could have these removed at “different speeds” the health secretary has said, as he warned Scotland could be at the start of a third wave of the virus.

Humza Yousaf, Cabinet secretary for health and social care, arrives for the statement at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. Picture: PA

Humza Yousaf said the Scottish Government was still “very concerned” about the risk of “overwhelming the NHS” if coronavirus cases surge again.

His comments came after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced a planned easing of coronavirus restrictions would not take place in many areas.

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While Glasgow, Scotland’s largest local authority, will finally move into level two restrictions from Saturday, there are 13 local authorities: including Edinburgh and Dundee; which will not get to move down from this to level one.

The restrictions in place in each local council area will be reviewed on a weekly basis, Mr Yousaf pledged, as he insisted that ministers “do not want to keep a local authority in any restriction for a minute longer than is necessary”.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme, the health secretary said: “The reason why we have regional variation, and we’re looking at the data per local authority, is because we don’t think a one size fits all approach is sensible.

“Therefore different local authorities might move to different levels at different speeds. I can not look into a crystal ball right now and tell you what local authority will be at what level, but we will review them every week and look at a range of data.”

He added: “Clearly if a local authority is able to move down a level, or unfortunately if it would have to move up a level, we would make that decision as soon as we possibly can.”

His comments came as he warned Scotland was seeing “possibly the start of wave three” of rising coronavirus cases.

But he said this time round the vaccination programme would be crucial in helping deal with the situation.

Mr Yousaf said: “The difference between waves one and two, and what we are seeing as possibly the start of wave three, is the vaccine.

“And it would make no sense whatsoever to ignore that really important fundamental difference.”

While he said there were “good signs” that vaccination could be breaking the link between rising infection levels and increases in hospital numbers, the health secretary added: “We are still very concerned, and continue to be concerned, about overwhelming the NHS.”

He stressed: “We don’t want the NHS to be overwhelmed, please bear in mind that if this is the start of a third wave, as many experts and clinicians tell us, we are at the foothills, we are not at the peak of the wave.

“So we are seeing in excess of 100 people already in our hospitals at an early stage of this third wave, and we have still the peak of the wave to get through.”

Professor Devi Sridhar, chair of Global Public Health and director of the Global Health Governance Programme at the University of Edinburgh, told the same programme that more time was needed to “get both those doses into everyone’s arms”.

Prof Sridhar, who advises the Scottish Government on Covid, said there was “still a large percentage of the population who have only had one dose”.

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