Nicola Sturgeon has given an update on the continued easing of lockdown in Scotland.
The first minister announced that schools will reopen fully after the Easter break, and that the Moderna vaccine will begin to be rolled out over the coming months.
But she also urged caution, stressing that the virus was “down but not out”.
Sturgeon warned Scots that there is still a risk of Covid-19 spikes, as are being seen in other countries, despite relatively low numbers north of the border.
She told the coronavirus briefing in Edinburgh: “In total, cases have now fallen by 80% since early January when of course they were at a particularly high level, the number of deaths has fallen even more sharply than that and as you can see from the numbers I reported earlier the number of people in hospital and intensive care is reducing.”
But she added: “Covid is down in Scotland, you can see that from the figures, but as we can still see here and more starkly in more parts of the world, Covid is not out.
“It is a virus that is very much still with us.
“Here in Scotland we are still seeing hundreds of people every day testing positive for it and almost all of the new cases that we are seeing reported now in Scotland are of the new variant that emerged just before Christmas and as we know that variant is more infectious than the variants we were dealing with earlier this year.”
Schools to reopen fully
Schools in Scotland will reopen fully after the Easter break.
Sturgeon said: “Having assessed the data with the input of our clinical advisers, when the Easter holidays end virtually all pupils will return to school full time, so secondary schools after Easter will go back to in-person, full-time learning.
“The one exception to this is children that are on the shielding list, we are continuing to recommend that they stay at home until April 26 and that’s in line with the advice already received from the chief medical officer.”
The first minister added: “This, I know, will be a huge relief to many children and young people and of course to many parents and carers and as I said a moment ago, by the end of April we want to see children on the shielding list get back to school in person as well.”
Every person in Scotland will be able to get tested for Covid-19 twice a week, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
The First Minister announced the programme, mirroring a similar initiative in England, at the coronavirus briefing in Edinburgh.
She said: “This testing will be in addition to and will supplement the additional testing routes that are in place in priority areas.”
She added: “This more universal approach to asymptomatic testing will allow us to assess the impact that might have on further suppressing transmission.”
The system will use lateral flow tests and more detail will be provided by the Scottish Government later this week, Sturgeon said.
No deaths for fourth day running
Scotland has recorded no deaths of Covid-19 patients for the fourth day running.
The death toll under this measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – remains at 7,614.
Sturgeon stressed that deaths registered are often lower at the weekends, adding that 259 people tested positive for the virus in the past 24 hours, giving a daily test positivity rate of 2%, down from 2.5% on Monday.
Of the new cases, 93 were in the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde area, with 44 in NHS Lothian and 32 in NHS Lanarkshire, and the rest split over six other health boards.
The numbers of Covid-19 patients in hospital in Scotland has fallen to 196, 19 fewer than before the Easter break.
Of these patients, the number in intensive care remains the same as prior to the Easter break at 21.
The first minister said 2,577,816 people have received the first dose of a Covid-19 vaccination and 463,780 have received their second dose.
The first batch of newly approved Moderna vaccines arrived in Scotland on Monday, with Scotland due to receive more than one million of the 17 million doses ordered by the UK.
Sturgeon said that the doses have already been factored into forward planning for the vaccination programme, and will be delivered over the coming months, adding: “The fact that we now have three vaccines in use is clearly very welcome and it does give us greater security of supply which is welcome.”
Meanwhile, the Valneva Covid-19 vaccine, which is set to be manufactured in Livingston, produces a “strong immune response”, health secretary Matt Hancock has said.
Data from an early-stage phase one/two study involving 153 people showed promising results for the jab, paving the way for phase three clinical trial.
The vaccine was safe and generally well tolerated, with no safety concerns identified by an independent data safety monitoring board.
The company said the results showed the vaccine was “highly immunogenic with more than 90% of all study participants developing significant levels of antibodies” to the Covid virus spike protein.
The vaccine also induced T-cell responses, which help the body fend off a virus and play a role in long-lasting immunity.
Boris Johnson said the findings were “very promising news” and the jab would be a “crucial weapon” against the disease providing it gained approval by regulators.
And Hancock said: “The UK Government has funded these clinical trials and it is fantastic to see Valneva’s vaccine produces a strong immune response.
“This vaccine will be made onshore in Livingston in Scotland, giving another boost to British life science, and if approved will play an important role in protecting our communities.
“I look forward to seeing the results of the upcoming phase three trial.”
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