Swinney hopes future Covid outbreaks won’t need lockdowns

Deputy first minister opens debate in the Scottish Parliament on strategy around tackling the coronavirus pandemic.

Swinney hopes future Covid outbreaks won’t need lockdowns PA Media

John Swinney has voiced hope that Scotland will ultimately be able to move away from lockdowns as a way of responding to rising coronavirus cases.

The deputy first minister said he hopes future outbreaks can be dealt with through the Test and Protect system.

MSPs debated the strategy around Covid-19 in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday.

Swinney, who is also the Covid recovery secretary, said the first cross-party steering group on coronavirus recovery has already met and agreed its core priorities.

He said: “I’m hopeful that over time we may be able to move away from the use of lockdowns and severe restrictions on our freedoms to deal with increasing cases.

“And instead to take a more targeted approach, using our high-performing Test and Protect system, enhanced surveillance and local outbreak management to contain and control increasingly sporadic outbreaks.”

He said people will still need to “do their part” by wearing face coverings, physically distancing and getting tested even if they do not have symptoms.

High numbers of cases in parts of Glasgow shows Scotland is not yet free of the virus, he said, while the Indian variant shows “we must continue to be on our guard”.

Speaking for the Scottish Conservatives, Murdo Fraser said Covid recovery should be the “unrelenting focus” for the next five years.

He said the impact of Covid-19 had been “devastating” in terms of lives lost and the wider impact on the NHS.

Fraser said: “There is also a huge and largely hidden story about the social impacts of Covid-19 restrictions.

“A growth in loneliness and isolation, a huge negative impact on mental health, the effects of which we are not likely to fully understand for some years to come.”

He said the Government should have a strategy of suppression rather than elimination of the virus, saying: “Just as we’ve had to learn to live with seasonal flu outbreaks, we’re going to have to learn to live with Covid in the future.”

The debate took place as Scotland recorded 464 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, the latest Scottish Government figures show.

No new deaths have been recorded meaning the death toll under this daily measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – remains at 7666.

A total of 233,671 people have tested positive for the virus and the daily test positivity rate is 1.8%, down from 2.1% the previous day.

A total of 83 people were in hospital yesterday with recently confirmed Covid-19, down 15, with four patients in intensive care, down two.

So far, 3,174,807 people have received the first dose of a Covid-19 vaccination and 1,942,285 have received their second dose.

While Glasgow remains in level three, an incident management team that was set up in Moray due to an outbreak there has now been closed with testing advice returning to normal.

Moray moved from level three to level two restrictions last weekend.

The region is now seeing its lowest Covid rates since before Christmas, with NHS Grampian deputy director of public health Chris Littlejohn saying: “The risk in Moray is now broadly the same as other level two areas.

“We need to remember this is still an infectious virus, with more transmissible variants being passed around in some parts of the country.

“There is little certainty about how they affect serious illness, hospitalisation, long Covid and death.

“We are heading into an uncertain summer but doing that as a country and Moray is now on a par with most of the country.”

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