Nicola Sturgeon to make Covid statement as case numbers soar across Scotland

It comes ahead of plans to drop the last legal restrictions, including face masks, on March 21.

Nicola Sturgeon to make Covid statement as case numbers soar across Scotland STV News

Nicola Sturgeon is due to give an update on the coronavirus pandemic as case numbers soar across Scotland, with her being urged not to backtrack on relaxing restrictions.

Last month, the First Minister announced the remaining legal rules, including the requirement to wear facemasks in shops and on public transport, would be lifted on March 21.

It comes almost two years on from the announcement of the country’s first lockdown on March, 23, 2020.

Sturgeon will deliver a Covid update in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday after Scotland recorded the highest number of people in hospitals with coronavirus in 13 months.

There were 1805 people in hospital on Sunday with recently confirmed Covid-19, up 142 on the previous day, according to latest figures.

Almost 300,000 people in Scotland are likely to have had coronavirus last week, the equivalent of one in 18, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Scotland’s chief medical officer has said record Covid infection levels were being “scrutinised intensely”.

Professor Sir Gregor Smith said coronavirus rates were “increasing across all age groups” driven by rising numbers of the Omicron BA-2 sub-type, which is now dominant.

He added there was “no evidence” this variant was associated with more severe disease than previous forms of the virus.

Sir Gregor said ministers will make a decision on whether to go ahead with lifting the face mask requirement shortly.

Current legal requirements on the use of face coverings, the collection of customer details for contact tracing purposes, and for businesses, service providers and places of worship to follow Covid guidance are expected to be dropped on March 21.

The Scottish Conservatives health spokesperson, Dr Sandesh Gulhane, said Scotland must follow England in removing the remaining blanket restrictions in favour of allowing individuals to take personal responsibility.

“The First Minister must not use the rise in infection rates as an excuse to kick the can further down the road,” he said.

“The last remaining Covid restrictions must end, as planned, next Monday.”

Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie said although progress towards normality was welcomed, it was clear the country was “not out of the woods yet”.

“Covid cases are increasing and are stubbornly high and our NHS remains under extreme pressure,” she said.

“For too long, the SNP government has turned its back on staff and patients as our NHS remains in crisis.

“This cannot continue. We need Test and Protect to continue to operate; testing to remain free and for anti-virals to quickly reach those who are immuno-suppressed in the coming months.”

On Friday, Nicola Sturgeon warned Scots “Covid hasn’t gone away” as she urged people to keep taking “sensible precautions”, such as wearing a face covering.

Access to lateral flow and PCR tests will continue to be free of charge, the Scottish Government said.

However, a transition plan on the future of Scotland’s test and protect programme is expected to be published in March.

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