Nicola Sturgeon warns parts of Scotland’s economy could be closed down again if it fails to ‘step up’ efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus after surge in case numbers
- Nicola Sturgeon said Scotland may have to ‘put the brakes on’ lockdown easing
- Ms Sturgeon raised the prospect of having to ‘close parts of our economy again’
- First Minister said releasing lockdown meant Scotland had ‘released the virus’
Nicola Sturgeon today warned Scotland must ‘step up’ its efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus if it is to avoid another nationwide economic shutdown.
The First Minister said Scotland was at a ‘key moment’ in the battle against the disease after a recent surge in case numbers.
She said ‘as we have released ourselves from lockdown we have also released the virus from lockdown’ and that could force her to ‘put the brakes on’ plans to further ease restrictions.
Ms Sturgeon also said the increase in cases was largely being driven by younger people ‘interacting more’ as she cautioned if such behaviour continues the virus ‘will eventually seep into older and more vulnerable groups’.
No new coronavirus deaths have been reported in Scotland in the last 24 hours but 146 new cases have been recorded.
A total of 2,496 patients have now died in Scotland after testing positive for coronavirus.
Nicola Sturgeon today said Scotland needs to ‘step up’ its efforts to combat the spread of coronavirus if it is to avoid a second economic shutdown
Oxford University’s coronavirus vaccine will most likely be rolled out in the ‘first few months’ of next year, according to the Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
The jab was expected at the end of 2020 but its creators have tempered expectations and pushed it back to next year.
Mr Hancock said today he still had some optimism the most vulnerable people will get their hands on the vaccine in the coming months in a ‘best-case scenario’.
But he admitted the more likely outcome would be a 2021 roll out of the jab, known as AZD1222, which was created by Oxford and owned by UK drug giant AstraZeneca.
The Health Secretary revealed manufacturing was already underway in the UK for 30million doses, enough to vaccinate half the population.
He said that having them on standby meant they could be dished out to those most in need as soon as the vaccine is given the green light by regulators.
Speaking on LBC radio today, Mr Hancock said: ‘We have got 30 million doses already contracted with AstraZeneca.
‘In fact they are starting to manufacture those doses already, ahead of approval, so that should approval come through – and it’s still not certain but it is looking up – should that approval come through then we are ready to roll out.
‘The best-case scenario is that happens this year. I think more likely is the early part of next year – in the first few months of next year is the most likely.
‘But we’ve also bought vaccine ahead of it getting approved from a whole different series of international vaccines as well.’
It has not yet been proven that Oxford’s vaccine works but early trials have heralded promising results, with tests showing the vaccine is safe to use in humans and appears to provoke an immune response. But data that proves it protects people is not expected until later this year.
More than 50,000 people worldwide are taking part in ‘phase 3’ studies to see whether the Oxford jab can actually prevent people getting infected with Covid-19.
In these tests the vaccine is being given to tens of thousands of people in real-world environments to see if it stops them from catching Covid-19 in the community.
Scientists behind the jab had to move their studies abroad over the summer – to South Africa, Brazil and the US – where Covid-19 is still rife, to speed up the trials.
There are not enough people catching the virus in the UK anymore to be able to reliably test whether the jab is working.
Speaking during the Scottish Government’s daily coronavirus briefing, the First Minister said 21,543 people have tested positive for the virus in Scotland.
Of the new cases, 78 are in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 19 in Lanarkshire and 13 in Lothian.
Scotland’s latest review of lockdown restrictions is due to take place on Thursday but Ms Sturgeon said ‘it may be that we have to put the brakes on some further changes’.
‘We must take this trend seriously and if we want to avoid having to close parts of our economy down again, and I think we all want to avoid that, we must step up our other ways of keeping Covid under control,’ she said.
‘This really is a key moment, and I want therefore to be pretty frank with you in my assessment today.’
Sunday’s figures showed 208 positive cases were recorded in the previous 24 hours in Scotland.
Ms Sturgeon said the last time more than 200 cases were reported in a single day was May 8 – but she said there were ‘important differences’ between the situation now and then.
She said a lower proportion of those being tested were now confirmed as having coronavirus, adding that earlier in the year the daily case numbers were ‘probably more of an under-estimate’ than they are now, with more people now being tested.
She added that on May 8 there were 75 people in intensive care with coronavirus and over 1,000 people in hospital with the disease – significantly higher than the totals now.
However, she warned: ‘We have a very definite trend at the moment. In some ways it shouldn’t surprise us, in recent weeks we have opened up most of our economy.
‘But as we have released ourselves from lockdown we have also released the virus from lockdown.’
Ms Sturgeon said younger people currently make up a higher percentage of positive cases.
She stressed ‘we really must take this very seriously’ and that even for younger people Covid-19 could be a ‘really nasty disease’.
Ms Sturgeon added: ‘If transmission takes hold again, even if it starts in the younger, healthier part of the population, which it appears to be doing, because younger people are interacting more, it won’t necessarily stay in that part of the population.
‘It will eventually seep into older and more vulnerable groups. To be blunt some young people will go on to infect their older friends or relatives.
‘And it is at that point we could see again more deaths and serious illnesses happen.’
Ms Sturgeon conceded that following public health advice was ‘tedious’ and ‘inconvenient’.
But she added: ‘The virus is spreading again.
‘It is not an option simply to do nothing about that.
‘Or if we were to do nothing we risk in the weeks ahead going back to a mounting toll of illness and death.
‘Let’s not take that risk.’
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