Covid Scotland: Omicron wave is ending but pandemic is ‘not close’ to being over, says Jason Leitch

Scotland is “not close” to the end of the Covid pandemic, although it is “getting close to the end” of the Omicron wave, a senior adviser has insisted.

By Katrine Bussey
Wednesday, 9th February 2022, 11:22 am
Updated Wednesday, 9th February 2022, 11:43 am

National clinical director, Professor Jason Leith, said he was “very hopeful” about the current coronavirus situation.

But he also stressed that the World Health Organisation (WHO) had estimated that the pandemic was only “about half way through”.

His comments came after First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, declared that Scotland is now “through the worst” of the Omicron wave of coronavirus.

Jason Leitch says there is cause for optimism

Describing the situation as being “much more positive” than it was at the start of the year, the First Minister told MSPs that her Government will publish a new strategic framework for dealing with Covid on February 22.

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This will set out an “approach to managing Covid more sustainably and less restrictively in the remaining phases of the pandemic,” Ms Sturgeon explained.

Despite this, Prof Leitch said it was impossible to rule out another lockdown if a new, potentially more severe variant of the virus emerged.

Professor Jason Leitch

“You can’t rule out a reverse gear because you don’t know if (another) Delta is coming, or a version of Delta is coming,” the expert told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme.

“We’re hope we’re heading towards more mild variants and therefore we would never have to go back to what you had, you may have to have a reverse gear.”

Asked about what life after the pandemic could look like, Prof Leitch said: “I am very hopeful, but this is not after the pandemic.

“We’re not close to after the pandemic. We are getting close to the end of Omicron.

“We’re not close to after the pandemic. The WHO think we’re about half way through, so this pandemic won’t end in February.”

While the arrival of the Omicron variant in Scotland saw Covid cases peak at more 20,000 a day at their highest early in January, Prof Leitch said: “Omicron is going very well now, and the numbers are falling.

“The numbers in hospital are below 1,000 for the first time in months, the number in intensive care are below 20 for the first time I can remember for such a long, long time.”

But he said daily case numbers were “still a little bit too high for my tastes” but said despite this “we will get to a position where some of the remaining positions will be able to eased”.

With restrictions that were imposed in the wake of Omicron now having been lifted, Prof Leitch said: “We’ve not got much protections left, we’ve got Test and Protect, we’ve got face coverings in indoor areas, including schools and cinemas and theatres. But everything is open.

“Compared to a year ago, it is completely different. We’ve got everything open, compared to this time last year schools were closed, a lot of hospitality was closed, a lot of cinemas and theatres were closed.

“So I think we are going in the right direction.”