Fears for islands, lockdown extended and schools to stay shut

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The lockdown on mainland Scotland will be extended and schools and nurseries will remain closed until mid-February, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has told parliament this afternoon.

In addition, the Isle of Barra and Vatersay, which are connected by causeway, will from midnight move from level three to level four following a ‘significant’ outbreak.

At today’s review, she said progress was being made but that the NHS in Scotland was not yet out of the woods.

Lockdown restrictions – including the stay-at-home requirement – will remain in place across mainland Scotland and some islands until ‘at least’ the middle of February.

It will be reviewed on February 2, she said.

BARRA

Of the ‘significant’ outbreak of Covid on Barra, she said the rule to stay at home only for essential purposes will now be introduced there and on Vatersay.

The two areas will also have to see the closure of any hospitality and non-essential retail businesses.

‘As of yesterday, there had been 39 confirmed positive cases and more than 10 per cent of Barra’s population had been required to self isolate,’ she said.

‘There is a significant concern that without additional measures the outbreak could spread more widely across the Western Isles and there is also concern about the potential impact on care homes and clinical services.’

She said as the virus came under control on the islands, the government would consider how quickly Barra and Vatersay could move back to level three.

SCHOOLS

Of schools and nurseries, she said: ‘Our reluctant judgement at this stage is that community transmission of the virus is too high and is likely to remain so for the next period to allow for a safe return to school on the first of February.

‘The cabinet therefore decided today that except for vulnerable and key worker children school and nursery premises will remain closed until mid-February and we will review the situation the second of February and I hope we can set out then a firmer timetable for getting children back to school.’

The decisions follow a meeting today of the Scottish Government’s cabinet.

NHS

Ms Sturgeon said the pressure on the NHS in Scotland continued to be ‘very severe’ but there were ‘some signs for optimism’.

Cases have stabilised and even declined, with it being clear the lockdown restrictions had helped, she said.

But she added: ‘Any relaxation of lockdown while case numbers, even though they might be declining, nevertheless remain very high, could quickly send the situation into reverse, especially with the faster-spreading variant now being so dominant.’

STATS FROM THE FM

Total number of positive cases reported yesterday: 1,162 – equivalent to 11.1 per cent of all tests

Total number of cases:  164,927

By 8.30am today, a total of 284,582 people had received the first dose of vaccine in Scotland

1,989 are in hospital with Covid an increase of 30 on Monday – around 30 per cent more than the peak of the first wave in April 2020.

Around 80 per cent of the NHS’ Covid surgical capacity is being ‘utilised’

150 are in intensive care, an increase of four on yesterday – lower than the first wave – but up 90 per cent since the turn of the year

In the past 24 hours, a further 71 deaths have been registered of people who tested positive over the previous 28 days

The total number of deaths in Scotland under the daily measurement has now reached 5,376

Cases stand at around 200 per 100,000 people in the population – a decline.

In the week to January 14, there had been an 18 per cent reduction in cases as a result of lockdown, while test positivity was also on the way down.