A monthly target of 95 per cent of patients to be seen and subsequently admitted or discharged within four hours has been set by the Scottish Government, but figures for the month of April showed just 72.1 per cent of 122,640 attendees fell under this measure.
Mr Yousaf said the “cumulative impact” of the coronavirus pandemic is “undoubtedly causing real strain, real pressure, real challenge” for the health and social care system in Scotland.
But he suggested clinicians were also facing problems due to factors such as “sicker” patients attending A&E after having stayed away for longer than usually expected.
The health secretary said issues in social care, such as delayed discharges from hospitals, can also be attributed to the challenges presented by the pandemic, adding this number is “far higher” than he would want them to be.
“But also because people are maybe not able to get the Care at Home packages they desperately need”, Mr Yousaf said, “they’re ending up with those slips, trips and falls, particularly the elderly, and back in the front door again.
“So it is a really difficult cycle, given the whole system is completely interconnected, hence why the interventions and the investment that we are making is in every part of the system.”
There are no plans to reintroduce coronavirus restrictions in Scotland amid a rise in infections, Mr Yousaf said.
He said he was “concerned”, but “not panicked” after it emerged on Friday the number of people testing positive for Covid-19 in Scotland had increased in the previous week.
Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed in the week ending June 2, an estimated 124,100 people in private households had the virus – around one in 40 individuals.
Mr Yousaf said the level of vaccination and natural immunity in the country’s population “should keep us in good stead”, but admitted clinicians had informed him that a rise in cases will likely occur in the weeks ahead.
However, he said it was “not panic stations” and was to be expected as the public begins to attend more events.
When asked if he was considering reintroducing restrictions in response to the rise in cases, the health secretary replied: “No, it’s not being discussed or being considered at this stage.”
He added: “The advice continues to be to wear face coverings in indoor settings like public transport.
“People, I think, over the last couple of years, know the advice that will help to keep them safe.
“We have got to trust them to make those judgments as opposed to, for example, introducing or mandating that advice into statute.”
Scottish Labour health spokesperson Jackie Baillie said: “Humza Yousaf is in complete denial about the damage his own Government is doing to our NHS.
“NHS workers have not just been left exhausted by the pandemic, but by years of mismanagement under the SNP.
“Staff are still working tirelessly to paper over the cracks caused by SNP incompetence.”