Coronavirus in Scotland RECAP: Nicola Sturgeon says reopening of schools to go ahead as fall in cases sparks optimism

Live updates on Covid-19 in Scotland, the UK, and around the world.

Thursday, 11th March 2021, 6:12 am
Updated Thursday, 11th March 2021, 1:42 pm

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The latest updates on Covid-19 in Scotland.

Coronavirus in Scotland LIVE: The latest updates on Thursday, March 11

Last updated: Thursday, 11 March, 2021, 13:56

  • Return to levels system could see ‘substantial’ easing of lockdown
  • 591 new coronavirus cases recorded on Thursday
  • 22 further Covid-19 deaths in Scotland

Covid-19 recovery top priority of medical body ahead of election

Recovery from coronavirus should be a top priority for all political parties, a medical body has said.

In its manifesto, published on Thursday, the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (RCPE) called on all political parties to support the creation of a working group to assess the impact of the pandemic on the medical workforce in Scotland.

The working group would have a particular focus on the wellbeing of doctors in Scotland after the extra pressure applied due to Covid-19, amid fears that some may choose to leave the profession due to the additional strain.

A review should also be set up after the end of the pandemic to learn lessons, so the NHS would be able to better handle another pandemic.

There should also be clear public health messages to ensure the public feel safe will accessing care, as well as maintaining mitigation measures in health and care premises and sticking to virtual consultations if possible, the college said in an 18-page document.

Sturgeon: Return to levels system could see ‘substantial’ easing of lockdown

Nicola Sturgeon has said she hopes all of parts of Scotland can see a “substantial” easing of lockdown when the country returns to the levels system at the end of next month.

The First Minister said while she wanted to adopt a national approach initially, those areas with lower rates on infection could hopefully “go faster”.

The First Minister has already announced the intention for Scotland to return to its levels system, with different tiers of restrictions applying in different areas, from April 26.

But with the current lockdown, combined with the vaccination programme, resulting in falling case numbers, she was pressed on whether the easing of restrictions could go faster.

House prices grow despite fewer properties listed for sale in lockdown

House prices have continued to grow in Scotland despite fewer properties being listed for sale amid continuing coronavirus restrictions, according to new figures.

In the monthly UK Residential Market Survey for the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), 38% of Scottish respondents reported an increase in prices in February.

However, for the fourth consecutive month, the number of properties being listed for sale also fell with respondents citing the current lockdown behind a fall in appetite to sell.

There was a 34% drop in the number of new buyer inquiries in February and the same figure for newly agreed sales – the second such drop in a row.

David Cruickshank, of DM Hall in Elgin, said: “Few properties are being offered for sale due to Covid restrictions.

“Demand remains high though, resulting in short marketing periods and rising house prices.”

Over the coming three months, 17% of respondents expect house prices to increase again.

Alexander Inglis, of Galbraith, in the Borders, also said: “We are seeing strong demand from buyers but sellers have been reluctant to come forward due to the lockdown and time of year.

“This is starting to change with more sellers now ready to test the market.”

Covid-19 recovery top priority of medical body ahead of election

Recovery from coronavirus should be a top priority for all political parties, a medical body has said.

In its manifesto, published on Thursday, the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (RCPE) called on all political parties to support the creation of a working group to assess the impact of the pandemic on the medical workforce in Scotland.

The working group would have a particular focus on the wellbeing of doctors in Scotland after the extra pressure applied due to Covid-19, amid fears that some may choose to leave the profession due to the additional strain.

A review should also be set up after the end of the pandemic to learn lessons, so the NHS would be able to better handle another pandemic.

There should also be clear public health messages to ensure the public feel safe will accessing care, as well as maintaining mitigation measures in health and care premises and sticking to virtual consultations if possible, the college said in an 18-page document.

RCPE acting president Angela Thomas said: “We think an independent working group is required, because of the pressures healthcare workers are under. The group must examine the serious impact of the pandemic on the health and wellbeing of the medical workforce.

Morrisons profits slashed in half after £290m Covid-19 costs

Morrisons has revealed that profits were cut by more than half over the past year after it was hit by £290 million in pandemic-related costs.

The supermarket group told investors that profits before tax and exceptional costs slid by 50.7% to £201 million for the year to January 31.

The Bradford-based retailer said it was impacted by higher-than-expected pandemic costs after a recent increase in absences, as well as the £230 million impact of handing its business rates relief back to the Treasury.

Group like-for-like sales, excluding fuel and VAT, jumped by 8.6% as it was buoyed by strong grocery demand, with 9% growth in a strong final quarter.

Morrisons said online sales tripled during the year as its capacity jumped five-fold.

It said online and wholesale operations are both profitable and it expects these to continue to improve.

The company expects to post higher profits for the new financial year and has seen “strong trading” since it began in February.

New antibody drug ‘reduces hospital admission or death from Covid-19 by 85%’

A monoclonal antibody drug reduces hospital admission or death from Covid-19 by 85%, the pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has announced.

The drug, called VIR-7831, is a new treatment for people with mild to moderate illness, and the study has been so successful that it has been stopped early.

GSK and its partner, Vir Biotechnology, plan to immediately seek an emergency use authorisation in the United States and approval in other countries, including potentially in the UK.

Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-produced molecules that mimic human antibodies.

The global phase 3 clinical trial based its initial analysis on data from 583 patients at risk of hospital admission.

GSK said VIR-7831 works in two ways – by blocking the virus’s entry into healthy cells and also clearing infected cells.

A separate laboratory study has found that VIR-7831 is effective against the main current Covid-19 variants, including the Kent, South African and Brazilian variants, the firm said.

VIR-7831 is designed to be given as a single intravenous (IV) infusion.

MSPs push auditor general for quicker review of pandemic PPE spending

MSPs have urged Scotland’s auditor general to publish assessments of PPE spending faster, with reports currently due several months after equivalent audits in England.

Auditor General Stephen Boyle appeared before a Holyrood committee on Thursday, where he was quizzed about his assessments of pandemic spending.

He said coronavirus had placed unprecedented pressure on public revenue and spending.

MSP Alex Neil asked about his assessment of spending on PPE, referring to a report from the UK Government’s National Audit Office (NAO) which was published at the end of November.

That report found the UK spent £10 billion extra in inflated prices for safety kit due to an “inadequate” stockpile and a surge in global demand early in the pandemic.

Mr Neil asked: “The time scales are the same north and south of the border in terms of the securing of PPE, so why has your office not yet produced an equivalent figure for Scotland?”

Mr Boyle said: “We are in the midst of doing it and we’ll be reporting it as soon as we’re able to.”

He said there would be specific audits on PPE and on NHS National Services Scotland.

591 new Covid cases reported on Thursday - and 22 further deaths

Nicola Sturgeon LIVE

Scotland has recorded 22 deaths from coronavirus and 591 positive tests in the past 24 hours, Nicola Sturgeon said.

It brings the death toll under this measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – to 7,483.

Speaking in the Scottish Parliament, Ms Sturgeon said 207,747 people have now tested positive in Scotland, up from 207,156 the previous day.

The daily test positivity rate is 2.5%, down from 3.1% the previous day.

There are 556 people in hospital confirmed to have the virus, down 26 in 24 hours, and 42 patients are in intensive care, down seven.

Ms Sturgeon said 1,825,800 people have received their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine, up 16,642 from yesterday, and 141,433 have received their second dose.

Nicola Sturgeon LIVE

Marking the one-year anniversary of the World Health Organisation (WHO) declaring Covid-19 a pandemic, Nicola Sturgeon said there was grounds for optimism.

Speaking ahead of First Minister’s Questions, Ms Sturgeon said: “The last 12 months have been incredibly tough – unimaginably tough for everybody.

“But as I indicated on Tuesday, we do now have real grounds for optimism, albeit cautious optimism.

“Case numbers, hospitalisations and deaths have all fallen in recent weeks and when we publish the latest estimate of the R number later today we expect it to show that it remains below one.

“And, of course, the vaccination programme has given a first dose to 40% of the entire adult population and it is set to significantly accelerate over the next few weeks.”

Nicola Sturgeon LIVE

Progress in the fight against Covid-19 has meant the next phase of opening schools and changes to outdoor mixing will go ahead, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said.

All primary school pupils and more secondary pupils will be back in school from Monday, while changes to current rules will allow four people from two households to mix outdoors from Friday.

Ahead of First Minister’s Questions on Thursday, Ms Sturgeon said: “Because of that continued progress, I can confirm we will go ahead as planned with the next stage of the reopening of schools on Monday.

“In addition, changes to the rules on outdoor meetings and activities which I set out on Tuesday will come into force tomorrow.”

The First Minister will also lay out the changes to the levels system which is due to come into force from the end of April.

Reopening of schools to go ahead, Sturgeon says as fall in cases sparks optimism

Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed lockdown easing plans are to go ahead as she told the Scottish Parliament the continued fall in coronavirus cases is giving grounds for “cautious optimism”.

The First Minster told MSPs that primary children will return to school next week as planned along with more senior secondary pupils.

Children in primaries 4-7 are due to join their younger classmates back in school from Monday.

Ms Sturgeon also confirmed that up to four adults from two households will be able to meet outside from Friday.

She spoke as the latest Covid-19 figures show 22 deaths from the virus and 591 positive tests were recorded in the past 24 hours.

It brings the death toll under this measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – to 7,483.

Marking the one-year anniversary of the World Health Organisation (WHO) declaring Covid-19 a pandemic, Ms Sturgeon said there were grounds for optimism.

“The last 12 months have been incredibly tough – unimaginably tough for everybody,” she said.

“But as I indicated on Tuesday, we do now have real grounds for optimism, albeit cautious optimism.

“Case numbers, hospitalisations and deaths have all fallen in recent weeks and when we publish the latest estimate of the R number later today we expect it to show that it remains below one.

“And, of course, the vaccination programme has given a first dose to 40% of the entire adult population and it is set to significantly accelerate over the next few weeks.”

She told MSPs the Scottish Government “will go ahead as planned with the next stage of the reopening of schools on Monday”.

She added: “In addition, changes to the rules on outdoor meetings and activities which I set out on Tuesday will come into force tomorrow and, as I have indicted, next Tuesday I will provide more information about our plans for the phased reopening of the economy.”

This will take into account the positive news but will also acknowledge the risks faced by new variants, she said.

Tuesday will also see changes announced to the levels system of coronavirus restrictions, which is due to come into force from the end of April.

The First Minister added the vaccination programme is set to significantly accelerate over the next few weeks.

As of Thursday morning, she said 1,825,800 people have received their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine, up 16,642 from yesterday, and 141,433 have received their second dose.

Scottish Government acted beyond its powers in closing churches, court told

The Scottish Government acted outwith its constitutional powers by ordering churches to close, a court has been told.

Communal worship has been banned under coronavirus legislation, however, the First Minister has announced it will be able to restart from Friday March 26, and the previously proposed limit on congregations of 20 will be increased to 50.

At a virtual hearing of the Court of Session on Thursday, the group of 27 church leaders launched a judicial review to argue Ministers acted outwith their powers by ordering the closures and are continuing their case to prevent instances in future.

Janys Scott QC, representing the group, said: “If one of my 27 ministers were to open their place of worship, they would be a criminal, and if a member of a congregation were to leave their home to attend worship, that is not permitted.

“Not only is the exercise of Christian ministry – in accordance with the scriptures – a crime, a police officer in the execution of his duty can break up a church service.

“That’s rather an alarming proposition.”

The court was told there is a constitutional settlement separating the powers of the church and state.

Adult population of Scotland will need Covid booster jab in winter, says Leitch

The Scottish Government is ‘anticipating’ the need for annual Covid-19 booster vaccinations, a top adviser has said.

National clinical director Professor Jason Leitch said the entire adult population could be given a dose of the vaccine each winter, starting this year – dependent on both supply of the inoculation and the level of immunity it offers.

The Scottish Government has previously said it would like to have the entirety of the adult population in Scotland – estimated to be in excess of four million people – vaccinated by the end of July.

Speaking to Holyrood’s Covid-19 Committee, which also extended emergency coronavirus legislation for another six months to the end of September, Prof Leitch said: “What we’re anticipating is probably annual vaccination – that’s what most of the experts in respiratory viruses and vaccination expect we’ll need.

“That would mean a booster dose for those who have already been done, which will be the whole adult population, by the end of July.

“That would happen probably going into winter 2021 – I can’t know that for sure, it may be that immunity lasts long enough that we can do it in the spring, but let’s just presume that we’ve got manufacturing upscaled, the world is ready and we can do 4.5 million people in the winter of 2021.”

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