'Stubbornly high' levels of coronavirus could prevent easing up restrictions for Christmas, Nicola Sturgeon says
Nicola Sturgeon has said that the “stubbornly high” prevalence of coronavirus in some parts of Scotland risks jeopardising any plans to ease restrictions around Christmas.
Sturgeon warned that some areas might be put into the highest level of restrictions in order to protect NHS capacity and to give more flexibility towards the end of the year.
She said that the western central belt poses a “particular concern” and added that moving some areas up to level four for a short time “would help us address both those concerns”.
Sturgeon made the remarks ahead of the Scottish Government’s weekly review of coronavirus restrictions on Tuesday.
Daily statistics show that in the previous 24 hours 717 new cases were recorded, representing 8.3 per cent of new tests carried out.
Across Scotland 1,227 people were in hospital, a reduction of 14, and 98 people were in intensive care, a reduction of two.
Six deaths had been recorded, although Sturgeon cautioned that the figure may appear to be so low because fewer registrations occur on Sundays.
Sturgeon said that the Scottish Government is looking “very closely” at whether the current levels of restrictions are proving effective at reducing the spread of the virus.
She warned that the central belt, particularly council areas in and around the Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board, have a “stubbornly high” prevalence of coronavirus which causes concern for “a number of reasons”.
Ensuring hospital and intensive care capacity in those areas are protected is “absolutely crucial,” Sturgeon said.
She also said that the current prevalence of the virus could limit any easing of restrictions around Christmas.
Sturgeon said: “Stubbornly high prevalence means that we might have less flexibility to offer some limited and careful easing of restrictions over the Christmas period, which we are very keen to do and I'm sure all of you are very keen for us to do as well.
“So moving to level four restrictions for a limited period in some areas, while not a decision we will ever take lightly because of the wider economic and social impacts, would help us to address both of these concerns.”
She added: “So these issues are ones that we're currently considering very closely, especially in relation to Lanarkshire, Glasgow, and some surrounding parts of the west of Scotland.
“The government's final decision will be taken by the cabinet tomorrow morning and then I will set that out to parliament tomorrow afternoon.”
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman also announced the publication of a new framework for NHS health boards to help with the prioritisation of clinical care.
Freeman said: “The framework gives our NHS boards clear guidance for clinically prioritising care, which then determines the timeframe within which patients will be seen and treated, making sure that those with the greatest clinical need are treated quickest.
“Using the framework will also ensure that patients are given a clear and realistic expectation of when they will receive their treatment. And we will take steps to make sure that patients receive clear and timely communication for their own planned procedure.
“We will always want to treat patients in the quickest period possible.”