Jason Leitch: Fears for 'overwhelmed' NHS as face mask restrictions end in Scotland

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Professor Jason Leitch says he is still worried about the “overwhelmed nature” of the health service as the legal requirement to wear face coverings comes to an end in Scotland.

The national clinical director said coronavirus is now being dealt with through common sense and guidance rather than law.

He spoke to the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland radio programme on Monday, saying it was the first time he had been in the studio in person in two years.

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Vaccination and therapeutics have “changed the game”, Prof Leitch said, but he acknowledged the daily case rate was still high.

Concerns for Scotland's NHS: Jason LeitchConcerns for Scotland's NHS: Jason Leitch
Concerns for Scotland's NHS: Jason Leitch

He said: “We’re still cautious as public health advisers because we’re still worried about the overwhelmed nature of our health systems around the world – not just here, but Scotland is no exception.

“Our emergency departments are struggling, our hospitals are struggling, not just with Covid – with backlog, with everything else coming in that has waited until this point to come forward.”

During the pandemic many people have been waiting before approaching the health service with their illness.

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Prof Leitch was asked about the fact he had not been convinced by the effectiveness of face coverings early in the pandemic.

It is no longer mandatory for Scots to wear face masks.It is no longer mandatory for Scots to wear face masks.
It is no longer mandatory for Scots to wear face masks.

He said he wished he had known at that stage about the extent of asymptomatic transmission and the airborne nature of the virus.

The national clinical director was also asked about a video showing Nicola Sturgeon not wearing a face mask during a campaign visit to a barber’s at the weekend.

He said: “I haven’t spoken to the First Minister today, I imagine I’ll speak to her later.

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“My understanding is it was a matter of seconds. She realises the place is crowded, puts her face covering on. Which is actually what we’re asking people to do.

“The guidance is if you are in a crowded area inadvertently or deliberately, then put a face covering on and that will protect you and others.”

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