The number of coronavirus patients in Scotland’s hospitals could continue to rise from its record high, chief medical officer Dr Gregor Smith has warned.
He spoke out as the number of people in hospital with the virus reached 1664 – an increase of 126 on the previous day’s total.
The number of patients recently surpassed the peak of admissions that was seen in the first wave of the pandemic.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told Scots the number of people needing hospital treatment was now “quite a bit above the peak of the first wave back in April”.
Her comments came as Scotland’s top doctor warned this number was likely to increase further.
Speaking at the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing, Dr Smith said: “In relation to the projection for hospitals admissions, what we have seen so far is hospital admissions that probably have their origin infections in the period immediately before Christmas.
“I expect we will still see some further rises in hospital admissions to come.”
The number of intensive care patients, which currently stands at 126, has not reached the peak of the first wave, with Dr Smith explaining there are now better treatments available to medics than there were earlier in the pandemic.
While he said that was “beneficial”, he added: “Make no mistake, those general wards and ICUs across Scotland right now are incredibly busy.
“We’ve got very tired staff who are providing care to this number of people and unfortunately I suspect that with the step change we saw just after Christmas, we have still got some rise in admissions still to come.”
The number of new cases being reported increased after Christmas as the new, more rapidly spreading strain of Covid-19 took hold in Scotland.
As a result of that the Scottish Government placed all of mainland Scotland under level four restrictions from Boxing Day, before tightening those up further with the lockdown measures announced last week.
And Dr Smith said he was hopeful the tougher restrictions were starting to have an impact.
He stated: “There is some encouraging news, I think when you look at the case rates we are seeing over the last few days, then we have perhaps begun – I am going to touch wood here – to slow down a little bit.
“The seven-day cumulative incidence across Scotland just now is not increasing at the rate I would have feared it might be at this stage, in fact there may even be some signs of containment with the Boxing Day measures really starting to have their effect coming into play just now.”
The chief medical officer added: “We need to watch this very carefully but there are some encouraging signs within the system just now that the cases are not as high as they perhaps could have peaked at.”