Better progress needs to be made in tackling Covid if people are to meet friends and family over Christmas, a public health expert has said.
Professor Linda Bauld said case numbers are not going down quickly enough despite the current restrictions and warned it is “difficult” to look ahead to a period where people might be able to see others who are not from their household indoors.
On Wednesday, deaths of coronavirus patients in Scotland reached a six-month high after 64 were recorded in the past 24 hours, while there were 1,261 positive tests.
Of the new cases, 488 were in Greater Glasgow and Clyde.
Prof Bauld, professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh, told BBC Good Morning Scotland: “If you look at the local authorities within Greater Glasgow and Clyde, particularly East Dunbartonshire and West Dunbartonshire actually, around an 11% increase in East Dunbartonshire in cases over the last week and 12% in west Dunbartonshire, and even in Glasgow City it’s not going down, in fact there is a very small increase between the last two weeks.
“So it just doesn’t seem, because we had still infection in the community even though the measures are in place, we’re not pushing the numbers down quickly enough and certainly the R number is still above one including in those parts of the west of Scotland.
“If we see these numbers now they are baked into the system and it means that they will follow through to ICU admissions and sadly deaths a number of weeks from now. We really need to get those numbers down.
“I think also the Scottish Government will be looking ahead to the holiday season and the pressure they are under. Quite understandably, people want to see their friends and families, even just for a few days, over that period and I think, to make that possible, I think we need to be making better progress in some parts of Scotland than we currently are.”
Prof Bauld said we are in a better position than in the spring as more is known about the virus and better treatments are available such as the steroid dexamethasone, while survival has increased by about a third.
She said: “We’re in a much better position than we were in the spring, let’s be clear, but looking ahead to a period where we might wish to see others indoors who are not from our own household is difficult at the moment.”
Asked what needs to change to give leeway around Christmas and whether we should brace ourselves for further restrictions, Prof Bauld said the four-week lockdown which England is going through “will have made a difference”.
She said that, as well as restrictions, the other important things are tracing contacts and self-isolation.
This week it emerged that a “coding error” had led to an over-estimation of the number of people traced within 24 hours of a contact testing positive for Covid-19 in Scotland, but the error has now been rectified.
Prof Bauld said the coding error was “very disappointing” and that, while Test and Protect is a good robust system, it “needs to be working more quickly and I think it is under strain”.