Scots warned to stay at home for Hogmanay as Covid-19 cases spike amid possible increase in restrictions

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has again urged Scots to stay at home for Hogmanay as Covid-19 cases continued to rise, adding the Scottish Government is “thinking very carefully” about possible further restrictions in level four areas.

Scotland recorded 1,895 new cases of Covid-19 on Tuesday, as 14,179 tests were logged, a much higher number than usual.

The highest ever daily positive cases by some margin, it is likely this figure has been impacted by processing or recording delays over the festive period.

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The Scottish Government continued to release Public Health Scotland data on Covid-19 cases over Christmas, but there may have been delays elsewhere in the process. Release of data around Covid-19 deaths was paused during the festive period.

Edinburgh's Hogmanay celebrations in 2019. Picture: Liam Anderstrem
Edinburgh's Hogmanay celebrations in 2019. Picture: Liam Anderstrem

Ms Sturgeon said there “may be a bit of a Christmas lag” in the data, but added: “It is nevertheless indicative of a rising, or what appears to be a rising, trend of cases again.”

The test positivity rate has continued to rise, at 14.4 per cent on Tuesday, compared to 12.2 per cent the previous day. The rate of positive tests at the beginning of December was around 4 per cent.

Following the data release, Ms Sturgeon repeated earlier pleas for Scots to stay within their own households during Hogmanay.

She said: “That really must make all of us yet again sit up and take notice of this. We also think that the new strain is contributing to faster spread of the virus, and so my main message to people really is to make sure that you are not visiting other people’s houses right now.

“That is the most important thing of all and, unfortunately, that includes Hogmanay and New Year.

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“This year I know we are all desperate to kick 2020 into touch, but we must do that safely and the safest way to do that this year is to be in our own homes with our own households.”

Her warning comes as Shetland reported its first Covid-19 outbreak since March, with 30 cases in the past week.

Shetland Islands Council has banned visiting to its 18 care homes and centres, and NHS Shetland public health principal Elizabeth Robinson said the islands would “almost certainly” be moved to level four restrictions if cases continued to rise.

Shetland is currently in level three along with other island areas, due to previously low case numbers.

The majority of cases in the existing outbreak have been attributed to social interaction, especially over the festive period.

"This is a virus that knows no bounds, it has infected many in our community during the festive season,” said Ms Robinson.

“This is not a time to judge or point fingers, but rather for each one of us to look at our own actions and ensure that we are doing everything possible to keep ourselves and others safe.

“Should the infection rate continue it is almost certain that Shetland will be moved to level four, which is currently in force across Scotland with the exception of the islands.”

North Mainland Councillor Alastair Cooper said the outbreak brought a “very difficult period” for Shetlanders, especially as first footing, particularly popular in the islands, would be banned.

The First Minister said authorities were closely monitoring the situation in Shetland and that she did not rule anything out.

She said the Scottish Government was “thinking very carefully” about whether additional restrictions should be added to current level four conditions.

"I said before Christmas that we are also looking at those areas in level four, whether we need to add any restrictions into level four and these are things that we are thinking very carefully about,” she said.

“It is absolutely essential that we keep this as suppressed as we possibly can while the vaccination programme gathers pace.”

She added: “Right across Scotland, the message is we really cannot be complacent in the face of the virus.

“That was always the case, but it is particularly the case now that we’ve got this new faster spreading strain.

“This is a time of year that I know people enjoy getting together, but that’s not safe to do this year and as we head into the Hogmanay and New Year period, I really do appeal to people stay out of the homes of others, celebrate the New Year in your own home, only with your own household.”

While the numbers of people in hospital and intensive care in Scotland is below peak levels in the spring, Ms Sturgeon said there was not “any room for complacency”.

The Covid-19 vaccination programme has continued in Scotland over the festive period, with those who were among the first to receive the shot on December 8 now due their second dose.

These doses are “scheduled” to occur soon, the Scottish Government said.

It comes as Margaret Keenan, the first person in England to receive the Pfizer vaccine, had her second dose on Tuesday, 21 days after the first.

The 91-year-old grandmother from Coventry said it was a “privilege” to receive the first dose in early December.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Health and social care staff vaccinated in the first week of the Pfizer vaccine roll out are currently scheduled for their second vaccination, and similarly adult care home residents are scheduled for their second vaccination.

"Vaccinations will continue to be delivered according to advice given by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.

“Health boards are working hard to provide vaccines for those currently eligible to receive them – as of December 20, 56,676 first doses of the vaccine were administered.”

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