Story by Evanna Holland and Gianni Marini
There is “significant pressure” on Scotland’s NHS as the country enters a “difficult period” ahead of winter, said Nicola Sturgeon.
Speaking after receiving a negative result for Covid having been identified as a close contact, the First Minister said that she felt a “big sense of relief”.
However, she said she knows there are many people across the country being contacted by Test and Protect who have tested positive.
“I am glad I don’t have to spend the next ten days self-isolating”, she told STV News.
“My appeal to everybody across the country is to continue to behave in a way that will help us limit and slow down the transmission of this virus.”
On Sunday, Scotland’s daily coronavirus case numbers reached another record high.
Positive results have doubled in the last week and public health experts have warned of a continuing increase as the country is poised for even greater levels of activity as universities and colleges return.
“It’s the overall level of cases that make me concerned right now,” Sturgeon said.
“Vaccination is breaking the link between cases and serious health harms.
“We are seeing a smaller proportion of people who get Covid ending up in hospital, but when there’s a big number of people with Covid, even a smaller percentage going to hospital will still put pressure on the health service and there is significant pressure on the health service right now.”
The First Minister said the figures were being closely monitored and that the government was prepared to take “whatever decision that might be necessary” to “keep people safe”.
She said that the Delta variant of the coronavirus was a particular threat due to how much more transmissible it is, pointing to countries such as New Zealand where numbers had risen despite extremely low prevalance earlier in the year.
“Delta is more infectious, it’s spreading much more easily so we have to remain vigilant, we have to continue when we’re out and about, living more normal values, we have to assume, because it is possibly correct, as I discovered last week, that the virus is there with you,” Sturgeon said.
“I really can’t put that strongly enough, this is a really fragile moment, it is a moment where after months and months of this, and we’re all tired of it, it really is, I suppose, to step-up and start to do these basic things again, to try and get it back under control.”
In a post online on Monday, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said that its emergency departments were “extremely busy” and asked people not to attend A&E unless it was “life threatening”.
NHS Lanarkshire announced that it has introduced further visiting restrictions amidst a rise in Covid case numbers.
The majority of non-urgent elective procedures are being postponed by the health board to free up staff and beds for urgent care.
Queues at a Covid test site in South Lanarkshire were so long it cut off the surrounding estate with people unable to get home.
The First Minister said: “Pressure on the national health service is one of the key factors that we have to monitor right now.
“This is different to the start of the pandemic when we cleared the hospitals to deal with covid we are also trying to catch up on other procedures, tackle backlogs, make sure that the health service is seeing non-Covid patients more quickly as well.
“This is a fragile period again. We don’t want to go back to restrictions, none of us do, but we need to monitor things carefully.”