Scotland’s record Covid infection levels are being “scrutinised intensely”, the country’s chief medical officer has said.
Professor Sir Gregor Smith spoke out after the data from the Office for National Statistics showed that in the first week of March an estimated one in 18 Scots had the virus.
Meanwhile the most recent daily figures showed 1663 people were in hospital on Friday with recently confirmed Covid, with the number of people in hospital at its highest for 13 months.
The chief medical officer said there was “understandable interest/apprehension about rising case rates & hospital occupancy in Scotland” but he insisted that the situation “continues to be intensely monitored & assessed”.
Posting on Twitter, he explained that Covid rates were “increasing across all age groups”, with this 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.
With hospital numbers increasing, especially amongst those aged over 60, Sir Gregor conceded there were “immense” pressures on NHS staff.
But added that “we’re not seeing same volume of severe disease as before” with the number of people in intensive care “v low and stable”.
Sir Gregor described this as “very encouraging” as he added that that at this point there was “no signal on excess deaths data”.
His comments came as bosses at NHS Lanarkshire said hospitals there were “working beyond maximum capacity”.
The health board has reintroduced essential visiting only at its hospitals, with people also being urged to stay away from accident and emergency, where many patients are having to wait more than ten hours.
Looking at the situation overall Sir Gregor tweeted: “Hospital occupancy with + C19 test is increasing, esp in >60s; some of this is direct C19 disease, some reflects background rates community transmission & some due to longer lengths of stay.
“!All contribute to increased healthcare pressures which are immense for colleagues.
“However, admissions have not risen as sharply as occupancy and we’re not seeing same volume of severe disease as before; ICU admissions are v low & stable.
“At this point, this is very encouraging & there is no signal on excess deaths data.
“This is all scrutinised intensely.
“We’re also keeping a very close watch on vaccine effectiveness studies, the good news here is that length of protection after 3rd dose continues to hold up very strongly against severe disease.
“The UK, and Scotland in particular, leads the world in publishing these studies.
“So whilst there’s no room for complacency, the relationship with C19 disease is changing.
“Uncontrolled cases will still cause unmanageable pressures, increased deaths & resilience issues in services, but at present this isn’t evident.
“All of us can play a role preventing this.”
He added: “By acting together, for each other, when cases are extremely high we can help contain further spread.
“Simple steps, such as avoiding over-crowded indoor spaces, wearing face coverings and good hygiene measures still make a difference.
“It doesn’t need to stop us enjoying life.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is expected to confirm on Tuesday if a further easing of Covid restrictions in Scotland, which is due to take place on Monday March 21, will go ahead.