Scotland has recorded the highest number of daily Covid cases since the pandemic began, as Nicola Sturgeon issued a plea to the UK vaccines watchdog to reach a decision on vaccination of 12- to 16-year-olds quickly.
Announcing a new daily record of 6,835 infections – more than 1,800 above the previous highest figure on Thursday – at her regular briefing, the first minister said “we are not currently considering a circuit-breaker lockdown”.
She said the surge in cases, which health officials believe is driven partly by the return of Scottish schools after the summer holidays, several weeks earlier than in the rest of the UK, was “cause for concern”. Scotland’s overall rate of new cases is at 431.5 per 100,000.
Sturgeon stressed the “vital importance” of everyone playing their part, for example by following the rules on face coverings that remain in place, adding that “none of us want to go backwards to even limited restrictions”.
Op Woensdag, data showed that about a third of Scotland’s new cases were in the under-19s age group, and on Friday Sturgeon confirmed that 44% van 16- and 17-year-olds had had their first dose of a vaccine. She added that she “really hopes” the JCVI will soon recommend the vaccination, based on the evidence, for all 12- to 15-year-olds.
“If I was making a plea to the JCVI, and it’s not for me to tell them what decision to reach and they’ve got to do that on the basis of the evidence, but please make it quickly.”
The Scottish rates were announced as analysis compiled by the PA Media news agency revealed that parts of Wallis and south-west England were also experiencing case rates higher than at any point since mass testing was first introduced in summer 2020, amid warnings of a further increase in the spread of the virus in the coming weeks with more pupils set to return to school and a bank holiday weekend about to begin except in Scotland.
The analysis found that Wales as a whole was recording 354.8 cases per 100,000 people – the highest rate since 11 January – with Pembrokeshire, Powys and Ceredigion showing the highest rates, while Northern Ireland’s overall rate stood at 629.3, the highest since 5 Januarie.
In England, Cornwall & Isles of Scilly, Sedgemoor in Somerset, West Devon and Torridge in Devon as well as Ryedale in North Yorkshire were showing record local highs. England as a whole had the lowest rate of the four nations, by 331.4 – its highest since 25 Julie.
At the Scottish briefing, the clinical director Prof Jason Leitch praised how quickly 16- and 17-year-olds had come forward for their vaccine since it was made available. Earlier on Friday, the general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers Association, Seamus Searson, told BBC Radio Scotland he would like to see all senior school pupils getting the vaccine.
Larry Flanagan, the general secretary of the EIS, Scotland’s largest teaching union, echoed this call, and pointed to figures published by Public Health Scotland on Friday indicating that two out of every 100 pupils nationally are absent from school for a Covid-related reason.
Flanagan said: “The EIS believes the change in contact-tracing arrangements for schools is creating confusion for parents, pupils and staff. We wish to see all pupils identified as close contacts being required to get a clear PCR test before returning to class. This removes the 10-day self-isolation requirement but offers a quick reassurance to school communities and will reduce the risk of in-school transmission.”