Covid Scotland: No guarantee winter lockdown can be avoided, says Humza Yousaf
There is no guarantee Scotland will not face another lockdown over the winter, health secretary Humza Yousaf has said.
Speaking ahead of the move beyond the levels system on Monday, Mr Yousaf told BBC Scotland’s Sunday Show that he is “hopeful” there will be no need for restrictions to return over the winter, but that this cannot be guaranteed.
“All it takes of course is a new variant to come from somewhere halfway across the world to make its way into Scotland,” he said.
“And depending on how effective our vaccine is against it, that could make a big, big difference in terms of restrictions.”
Mr Yousaf added that Scotland is currently on a “positive trajectory,” with Covid cases and hospitalisations on the decrease.
And the successful vaccination of the most vulnerable in society will hopefully mean that a winter lockdown is not necessary.
However, winter will be “challenging”, he said, with a more severe than usual flu season and waves of other respiratory viruses expected.
Some Covid restrictions, including the mandatory wearing of face coverings, are set to remain in place until the end of February 2022, which Mr Yousaf said may reduce the impact of these viruses over winter.
Two metre social distancing will also be continued in healthcare settings.
Covid cases are also set to rise in the coming weeks, as restrictions ease and schools return from the summer holidays.
“I think we would expect cases to rise as people interact more, potentially in bigger numbers, but also when schools return as well,” said Mr Yousaf.
“There’s perhaps some sense of an artificial break when it’s the summer holidays.
“So we would expect [a rise in cases] but of course we are continuing to vaccinate people which is the real positive.
“But that of course is why we’re keeping some mitigations absolutely in place.
“Our modelling hopefully will be able to tell us that the pressure we’re feeling in the NHS hopefully will remain in a place where we can cope with that, but of course that’s why these measures continue to always be kept under review.”