What did Nicola Sturgeon say in today’s Covid update? Eight key points explained

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Nicola Sturgeon delivered a Covid update to MSPs in the Scottish Parliament earlier today.

The First Minister updated Holyrood on the state of the pandemic in Scotland, including the emergence of stealth Omicron as the new dominant Covid variant.

Sturgeon also announced the government’s decision on the remaining Covid restrictions, such as face coverings and contact tracing.

More was also revealed on the Scottish Government testing strategy over the coming weeks and months.

Here are eight things we learned during Sturgeon Covid update today.

Cases and hospitalizations



More than 38,000 cases were identified in Scotland in the four days since Saturday

Nicola Sturgeon confirmed the latest Covid statistics for the last four days in Scotland during the early stages of her address.

A total of 38,770 new Covid cases were identified in Scotland since Saturday. This represents a rise on last week’s figures, with 36,051 infections reported over the same period last week.

The First Minister also referenced the latest Office for National Statistics data, which stated that one in 18 people had Covid in the week ending March 6.

Average daily infections reported by the Scottish Government have risen from 6,900 three weeks ago to over 12,000 now.

The number of people in hospital with Covid has also taken a spike from 1,060 three weeks ago to 1,996.

This figure is said to be causing ‘significant pressure’ on the NHS.

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Stealth Omicron



BA.2 has now become the dominant Covid strain in Scotland

BA.2, which is typically known as the stealth Omicron variant, has now become the dominant Covid strain in Scotland.

Nicola Sturgeon said that the virus variant now accounts for 80 per cent of all reported cases in the country.

There is also evidence to suggest that the transmissibility of BA.2 may be 80 per cent higher than the original Omicron strain, BA.1.

The First Minister added that stealth Omicron has become dominant quicker in Scotland than England and Wales.

So far, there is no evidence to suggest that BA.2 causes more severe illness or evades immunity more effectively than the original Omicron strain.

Sturgeon also said that there has not been a significant increase in the people requiring intensive care in Scotland’s hospitals as a result of the virus strain.

But there is still concern about the impact the spike in Covid cases in having on hospital admissions, which have reached their highest in over a year.

Vaccination



Sturgeon said that vaccination is continuing to break the link between infection and severe illness

The First Minister then turned to the work that vaccination is having in protecting Scots amid the stealth Omicron wave.

Sturgeon said that the immunity provided by the vaccines is still ‘breaking the link’ between infection and severe illness.

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It was also confirmed that children aged between 5 and 11-years-old will begin receiving their first Covid jab from this Saturday.

Additional booster vaccines have started rolling out for older adults in care homes, with appointments starting next week for everyone aged 75 and over.

A second booster will then be rolled out for those who are immunosuppressed from mid April.

Strategic framework progress



The Covid threat level is expected to be reduced to low over spring

Nicola Sturgeon said that the threat level posed to Scots from Covid remains at medium, under new guidelines set out in the Scottish Government’s strategic framework.

There is optimism that this will be downgraded to low over the spring.

International travel rules may be reintroduced



Remaining Covid travel restrictions will be lifted in Scotland from this Friday

The First Minister also made reference to the Scottish Government decision to end the remaining restrictions in place for international travel.

From this Friday, travelers will no longer be required to fill out a passenger locator form, while testing requirements for unvaccinated people will be scrapped.

But Sturgeon warned that those restrictions may be reimposed in certain circumstances – an example of this would be if a new variant were to emerge.

contact tracing



Businesses will no longer be legally required to take the details of customers for contact tracing purposes from next Monday

Business and service providers will no longer be required to take the details of customers for contact tracing purposes from next Monday.

Contact tracing is then expected to end from the end of April. People who have symptoms of respiratory illness will be advised to stay at home during this period.

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Face coverings



Face covering rules will remain in law for at least another two weeks

But legal rules on face coverings will remain in place for at least another two weeks.

It was initially proposed that the law would be moved into guidance from March 21, but the recent spike in infection has caused the government some concern.

This change is now expected to go ahead in early April.

Sturgeon said: “I know this will be disappointing for businesses and service providers such as day care services.

“However, ensuring continued widespread use of face coverings will provide some additional protection – particularly the most vulnerable – at a time when the risk of infection is very high, and it may help us to get over this spike more quickly.”

testing



Scotland’s testing policy will change over the coming weeks

A paper has been published by the Scottish Government on the future of testing for Covid in Scotland.

Over the next month, there will be no changes to the testing advice currently in place – which means that Scots are still advised to take two lateral flow tests a week, daily for seven days if they are a close contact of a positive case and for whenever they are visiting someone who is vulnerable.

People who have symptoms of Covid should continue to get a PCR test.

From April 18, Scots will no longer be advised to take a lateral flow test two times a week. This advice will also stand for workplaces, early learning and childcare settings, mainstream and special schools, and universities and colleges.

All routine population wide testing is also expected to end from the end of April, including for those who have symptoms of the virus.

Physical test sites will close from then, but mobile testing units and lab capacity will be retained for “longer term testing purposes”.

From May 1, testing will then move from population wide to something more ‘targeted’. This will include supporting clinical care and treatment, protect higher risk settings, for surveillance, outbreak management and responding to significant developments, such as a new variant.

Nicola Sturgeon also said that testing will remain free of charge while the government “continues to advise testing.”



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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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