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Coronavirus / First minister ‘cautiously optimistic’ but economic emergency hits hard

First minister Nicola Sturgeon.

THE coronavirus public health emergency that has seen the number of confirmed Covid-19 deaths reach almost 1,000 in Scotland has also created an economic emergency first minister Nicola Sturgeon told a virtual press briefing in Edinburgh on Tuesday.

According to a new report published by the Scottish Government the economic output is estimated to drop by one third over the period of the lockdown.

At present 22 per cent of the economy is closed down with 900,000 jobs affected.

And while today’s job market figures don’t reflect the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, a sharp rise in unemployment is inevitable over coming months.

Sturgeon said that over recent weeks 110,000 claims for Universal Credit have been made, a figure that is almost ten times higher that what is usually expected during the same period.

Meanwhile, the first minister delivered a slightly more upbeat message to journalists who had dialled in to the briefing via Zoom.

With the number of new deaths over the previous 24-hour periods flattening, Sturgeons said she was cautiously optimistic.

She emphasised that the country was far being out of the woods yet but recognised publicly the “downward trend” in the number of people admitted to hospital and in intensive care.

As of Tuesday 985 people tested have died in hospital since the outbreak of the pandemic.

On Wednesday, the National Records of Scotland will publish a different set of figures, which also show the number of people who have died of suspected Covid-19, including those in care homes.

The number of people who have tested positive in Shetland has risen by one to 52 since yesterday (Monday). There were six people overnight in the Gilbert Bain Hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19.

The first minister further announced that new measures to regulate social gathering and non-essential business activities have been put in place, as has a campaign to help people with their mental health.

The Clear Your Head campaign encourages people to stick to a routine and keep in regular touch with friends and family to cope with the difficulties created by the current movement restrictions.

Meanwhile, the government was criticised by the Greens for what it says is a lack of a Covid-19 testing strategy.

Referring to comments made by Allan Wilson, President of the Institute of Biomedical Science, the party’s co-leader Alison Johnstone said the government must explain why not more testing is done when the capacity to do so is in place.

Wilson had told the BBC on Monday that laboratory capacity was available to do more testing than just symptomatic key workers, their families and symptomatic patients in hospital.

Johnstone said: “It is remarkable that having increased testing capacity, the health secretary hasn’t been able to put in place a strategy that uses that capacity.

“Our analysis shows that Scotland is testing far fewer people per head than most EU countries. The Czech Republic are testing twice as many people as us, and Germany three times as many.

“It’s clear that we urgently need a strategy in place to test, trace and isolate. It’s simply not good enough that such a plan hasn’t been forthcoming, and ministers must produce one urgently.”