One in 100 Scots now have Covid as health boards warn of ‘exceptional’ pressure
One in 100 Scots now have Covid-19, new figures show, as health boards told of “exceptional” pressure on services and warned of young patients in intensive care.
The figure is a rise from one in 150 the week before, and is now at the highest level since January, according to the Office for National Statistics. Infection rates are one in 160 in England and one in 340 in Wales.
It came as an urgent plea was issued for 18-29 year-olds to get vaccinated in Tayside amid soaring cases, while NHS Grampian asked local residents to take extra care to avoid visiting over-stretched A&E departments. Non-urgent surgeries were cancelled in Lothian, Lanarkshire and Highland last week.
NHS Tayside Director of Public Health Dr Emma Fletcher has pleaded with under 40s to take up their Covid vaccine when offered, as pressure mounts around the country to ramp up the programme.
Some 10,325 first vaccine doses were reported on Friday, slightly down from Wednesday and Thursday’s figures and almost a third less than the previous Friday.
The Scottish Government insisted it is “on track” to give all adults a first dose by July 18, but figures from Public Health Scotland show that at the current rate it will be August 6 before the 18 to 39 age group reaches 90 per cent coverage, in line with uptake in other age groups.More than 460,000 Scots aged between 18 and 39 have yet to receive a first dose, while the average daily first doses given this week has been 10,500.
The areas with the lowest vaccine coverage include Edinburgh, Highland and Dundee, which have all given a first dose to around half of 18 to 29 year olds, compared to the national average of over 60 per cent.
Edinburgh has the lowest vaccination rate of all, at just over 52 per cent.
Dundee, where vaccine coverage is similar to in Edinburgh, has also seen the highest case rates in Europe in the last week according to the World Health Organisation.
A fourth Covid ward has been opened at Ninewells hospital to cope with the rise in demand, meaning three extra wards have been opened since the end of June.
Dr Fletcher warned the health board is seeing younger people hospitalised with Covid, and also in ICU. Some five people are now in ICU in Tayside, and a further five in the high dependency unit.
In an “exceptionally serious” video message, she urged people aged 18 to 39 to take up their Covid vaccine.
“Unfortunately, there are young people right now with Covid in Ninewells – not only in our general wards, but also in our intensive care unit and our high dependency unit.
“So today we have a simple plea: please go and get your vaccination. We’re trying to make it as easy as possible for people who are over 18 to get their jabs with drop-in clinics running across Tayside.
“Covid-19 has not gone away and is still having a serious impact in Tayside. So we need all of your support more than ever.”
NHS Grampian has issued a plea to local residents not to take any risks which may land them in A&E while the health service is under pressure.
A&E consultant consultant Donna Paterson said: “In the hospital the number of Covid-19 patients has started to climb – from five last Friday to 25 today.
"We also have a number of staff who are self-isolating and we still have less capacity due to guidelines which are in place to keep patients and staff safe as we make efforts to get to patients waiting for procedures as quickly as we can, avoidable admissions impact our ability to do that.”
Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie called for changes to NHS staff self-isolation requirements amid the pressure on hospitals.
"ERI staff tell me that workforce shortages are worse now than at any other point in the crisis. They say it is piling pressure on the hospital and remaining staff,” he said.
“It’s the self-isolation that's behind this, not Covid-driven patient demand.
"There is still some way still to go until the vaccine gives us all more security. But the pressure on essential services is reaching a crisis point now and they are seizing up. The spiralling self-isolation rates are a real danger to the wider health service and beyond.”
Jacquie Campbell, Chief Officer of Acute Services at NHS Lothian said: “Covid-19 is very prevalent in the community at the moment and this unfortunately translates to higher numbers of Covid positive patients within our hospitals.
"We are also experiencing staff absences due to the need to self-isolate if identified as a close contact of a positive Covid case. These twin pressures mean we must focus our services on the most urgent cases.”
It comes after NHS Lothian and Lanarkshire cancelled non-urgent surgeries amid high pressure and staffing shortages, after NHS Highland did the same.
NHS Highland also declared Raigmore hospital in Inverness to be at capacity, or “code black”. NHS Grampian later announced that Aberdeen Royal Infirmary and Dr Gray’s hospital in Elgin were also at capacity.
The Scottish Government has said an extra 100 staff members will be added to the Test and Protect workforce, after reports the service was struggling to keep up with mounting case numbers.
Health secretary Humza Yousaf said: “As we announced last week, we are now using a variety of methods to contact people, including using digital methods like SMS messages for lower risk cases and prioritising calls for higher risk cases.
"These changes, along with extra staffing, will ensure that people are contact traced, and begin self-isolation, as quickly as possible. I’m confident that the performance of Test and Protect has started to improve in recent days.
The Scottish Conservatives accused the government of “playing catch up” with the additional staff members.
“They took their eye off the ball at a critical moment and failed to resource the system to cope with a surge in cases in Scotland,” said shadow health secretary Annie Wells.