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Coronavirus / Sturgeon urges continued ‘caution’ amid improved Covid-19 picture

First minister Nicola Sturgeon.

SCOTLAND is in a “much better place” to move further away from Covid-19 restrictions than it was at previous stages of the pandemic, according to first minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Official government figures showed a further three positive cases in Shetland were among 1,044 infections across the country on Tuesday.

The islands’ seven-day average up to 24 July was 153 cases per 100,000 people.

The picture across Scotland has improved markedly in recent weeks – with Sturgeon pointing out that in early July five of the top 10 local authority Covid-19 “hotspots” were north of the border, but now there are none in the top 150.

In excess of four million people have now received at least one vaccination dose, and Sturgeon again encouraged anyone who has yet to come forward to do so.

She said the vaccination programme “helps to explain why case numbers in Scotland are reducing as significantly as they are right now”, with case numbers in the week to 23 July standing at 1,523 compared to over 3,300 at the beginning of July.

“Thanks to vaccination the very high case numbers we’ve seen in the past two months or so haven’t resulted in the same number of hospitalisations and deaths as previous waves,” Sturgeon said.

Anyone who is 18 or over, or turns 18 before the end of October, can come forward to ask for an appointment if they have yet to receive a vaccination, or if it is eight weeks or more since they received their first dose.

Sturgeon sounded a note of caution that the Delta variant is “significantly more infectious” than earlier Covid-19 variants, and that cases are still nine times higher than they were in May.

She said a “sensible degree of caution” had helped bring case numbers down and continued caution would ensure that progress was not reversed: “Covid is still capable of causing serious illness and death, and the impact of long Covid should not be underestimated.”

Sturgeon urged people to continue sticking to the rules such as basic hygiene measures and encouraged everyone to “meet outdoors as much as possible” to minimise spread of Covid-19.

The first minister will address the Scottish Parliament next Tuesday (3 August) to set out the next steps in removing Covid-19 restrictions, which could see further changes to social distancing measures.

The government has pinpointed 9 August as the date when some restrictions may be removed.

She also had some stern words for antivaxxers who are “deliberately spreading misinformation”, imploring people to think twice before “retweeting or sharing on social media information about the vaccine that has no basis in fact”.

Sturgeon said anyone who is “genuinely worried” can visit the NHS Inform website, seek out some of the many sources of “credible” information online or attend a vaccination centre and ask to speak to a trained professional.

Meanwhile, NHS Shetland chief executive Michael Dickson will be taking questions from members of the public in a Facebook Live event from 7pm on Wednesday (28 July).