More than 10,000 people have now died in Scotland after testing positive for coronavirus.
Another 41 deaths linked to Covid-19 were recorded in the past 24 hours, meaning the death toll under the daily measurement – of people who tested positive for the virus in the past 28 days – now stands at 10,038.
There were 1544 people were in hospital on Thursday with recently confirmed Covid-19, down 16 on the previous day, with 50 in intensive care, down eight.
“We’re still seeing increases in hospital admissions with Covid, but they’re definitely slowing down,” he said.
“The numbers of daily cases… there’s a bit of instability with the data because of course we had that new case definition, as you know, so the data needs a few more days to catch up.”
Since Thursday, figures published by the Scottish Government include cases identified using either a first lateral flow device or PCR positive test.
Authorities said there continue to be large volumes of tests being processed by laboratories, which has had an impact on turnaround times “resulting in delays between specimens being taken and results being received and reported”.
Public Health Scotland is continuing to monitor the situation.
Restrictions on large-scale outdoor crowds in Scotland will be lifted from Monday, meaning stadiums can operate at full capacity for the return of the Scottish Premiership and the upcoming rugby Six Nations tournament.
New guidance stipulates that organisers of large events of 1000 or more people should check the vaccine passport status of at least 50% of attendees, rather than the current 20%.
Furthermore, from Monday the definition of “fully vaccinated” will include having a booster if a second dose of coronavirus vaccine was received more than four months ago.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said told MSPs on Tuesday that restrictions could be eased amid encouraging signs the Omicron wave “may be at or close to the peak”.
She said: “Our tentative view [is] that although significant uncertainties remain in both the data and the immediate period ahead, there are nevertheless some grounds for cautious optimism that a combination of the protective measures introduced before Christmas, responsible action on the part of the general public, and the rapid delivery of booster vaccines has had a positive impact.”
But national clinical director Jason Leitch told Scotland Tonight that governments across the world have to be prepared for the next variant, which he said “could be worse than Omicron”.
He said: “We’ve had four variants, and they’ve got progressively worse, and then one has got slightly better. But Omicron didn’t come from Delta and Delta didn’t come from Alpha. That’s not how it works. They all come from the beginning.
“So you could get a more mild one, and that would help us and you would end up having fewer people in hospital, but you could get a more severe one. So we have to be ready for all of those eventualities.”
The National Records of Scotland (NRS) said on Wednesday that 12,543 deaths have been registered in Scotland where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.
The NRS figures differ from the lab-confirmed coronavirus deaths announced daily by the Scottish Government because the NRS figures include suspected or probable cases of Covid-19.
So far, 4,396,802 people have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccination, 4,060,859 have received their second dose, and 3,171,289 have received a third dose or booster.