More than 48,000 COVID vaccines administered in 24 hours
Over 48,000 doses of the COVID vaccine were administered in the last 24 hours, taking the total number of people who have had the first dose to 742,512.
Speaking at the Scottish Government’s daily coronavirus briefing, Deputy First Minister John Swinney also announced that community coronavirus testing for people without COVID symptoms will begin in Fife from next week.
The first centre for asymptomatic testing will open in Cowdenbeath on Wednesday, with a further four testing centres to be set up in Fife in the coming weeks.
Testing will be rolled out to other council areas over the coming weeks as well.
Eight local authority community testing schemes have now been approved, and another 11 will hopefully be signed off later today, Swinney said.
The sites will use lateral flow testing, which allows people to see the results of their test within 45 minutes, but because this type of testing is less sensitive than the PCR swab test, any positive cases will need to be confirmed by a PCR test.
Swinney said: “The targeted expansion of testing in these communities will help more people find out if they have COVID, even if they don’t have symptoms.
“It will help them to know if they or their contacts need to self-isolate, and it will therefore play an important part in helping us to stop the spread of the virus.”
Yesterday, for the second day in a row, the percentage of coronavirus tests that came back positive was 4.9 per cent, which Swinney called “very encouraging news”.
This is below the five per cent positivity threshold that the World Health Organization uses as an indicator of the virus being under control.
The vaccine rollout in Scotland has also gathered pace.
In the last 24 hours 48,165 doses of the coronavirus vaccine were administered, which is a daily record and takes the total number of people who have had the first dose of the vaccine to 742,512.
Ninety-nine per cent of elderly residents in care homes have now received their first dose of the vaccine, and 93 per cent of all care home residents overall, as well as 92 per cent of over-80s living in the community, 47 per cent of people aged between 75 and 79, and 16 per cent of 70-74-year-olds.
This falls slightly below the Scottish Government’s target of all care home residents and all over-80s having had their first dose of the vaccine by the end of the first week of February.
Challenged on this, Swinney said the vaccination of 92 per cent of over-80s was “really quite extraordinary” when looking at the uptake of the flu vaccination, which among the over-65s was 79 per cent against a target of 75 per cent, so they “way above that” in the effectiveness of the coronavirus vaccination programme among the over-80s.
Swinney said that there would be some in the over-80s group who could not receive it just now for clinical reasons, while others would be among those receiving it today and others who were housebound would have visits from district nurses at home.
“I think the performance on over-80s is tremendously reassuring and is indicative of the breadth and the depth of the vaccine programme around the country,” he said.
NHS national clinical director Jason Leitch added: “The over-80s will be completed as far as possible by the end of today.
“If you had told me that we would do 92 per cent three months ago, I would have said that was it complete, but the take-up has been so good that now we want to get that even higher.
“I didn’t think nine of ten over-80s would take this COVID vaccine, but we had no measurement to judge it by because we had never done it before.
“So I think it’s testament principally to that over-80s group, but also their relatives, carers and to those vaccination teams.”
Leitch said that anyone over 80 who didn’t yet know when they were getting the vaccine and wanted one, should contact their GP.
Leitch also said that all 470,000 over-70s in Scotland should have been contacted and offered a vaccine appointment by the end of today.
If they haven’t, they should phone the vaccine helpline and their health board would contact them.
Commenting on today’s figures, Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary Donald Cameron said: “People across Scotland will be assured that things finally appear to be moving in the right direction following the opening of mass vaccination centres and the sterling support of our military personnel.
“But after falling so far behind the rest of the UK and with patchy vaccination rates across Scotland, there is clearly still much work to be done by the SNP to rebuild public confidence.
“By their own admission, they have still failed to meet their ever-shifting target for the top two highest priority groups.
“This is not time for mutual back-slapping but concentrating on ensuring our NHS has all the help it needs to vaccinate as many Scots as quickly as possible.”
Following reports in The Scotsman that in one of the mass-vaccination centres, the EICC in Edinburgh, staff had been told to throw out unused vaccines at the end of their shift, Labour and the Liberal Democrats called for action to prevent further vaccine wastage.
Scottish Labour interim leader Jackie Baillie said: “Today is the deadline for all over-80s to be vaccinated and yet we find vaccinators are being told to destroy unused doses.
“This must not become common practice when so many people in the target groups are still awaiting their letters, never mind their first dose.
“The Scottish Government must put more effective plans in place to ensure accurate distribution of supplies and end this practice now.
“The vaccine is the key route out of this pandemic – the vaccinators are doing their best – but being told to discard doses is nothing short of a disgrace.”
Scottish Lib Dem health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “This regulation is counterproductive and reckless.
“It is wasteful and slows down the vaccination timetable. The Scottish rollout is already much slower than the rest of the UK’s, we cannot afford any more delays.
“We cannot afford to waste vaccine doses due to unnecessary red tape.
“The Scottish Government must answer to this, and give the people the certainty and serenity that the Government is doing everything it can to protect our people from the virus and rollout the vaccine to everyone as soon as possible”