LiveCoronavirus in Scotland RECAP: Only one in a thousand asymptomatic school Covid tests are positive, says John Swinney

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

Wednesday, 24th March 2021, 6:31 am
Updated Wednesday, 24th March 2021, 1:43 pm
The latest updates on Covid-19 in Scotland.

Follow along here to stay up-to-date with the latest developments on Wednesday, March 24.

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Coronavirus in Scotland LIVE: The latest updates on Wednesday, March 24

Last updated: Thursday, 25 March, 2021, 11:29

  • Seven deaths of coronavirus patients recorded on Tuesday
  • 495 new Covid cases reported in Scotland
  • Sturgeon: Public inquiry into Covid-19 a ‘priority’

Boris Johnson said the UK was “on the side of openness” in trade in vaccines, as European Union leaders met to consider tougher export rules.

Number of people in poverty in UK hit record high before pandemic

The number of people in the UK living in poverty hit a record high just before the coronavirus pandemic began, figures show.

A total of 14.5 million individuals were estimated to be in relative low income – below 60% of average household income – in the year to March 2020.

This was up slightly from 14.4 million the previous year, but a million higher than the equivalent figure a decade earlier in 2009/10.

The number of children living in poverty also hit a record high in 2019/20, up year-on-year from 4.1 million to 4.3 million.

But the figures, published by the Department of Work and Pensions, show that average household income “increased significantly” ahead of the pandemic, rising from £455 a week in 2018/19 to £476 in 2019/20, after housing costs.

Comparable figures for UK households with below average income began in 2002/03.

The estimated proportion of UK children living in relative poverty in 2019/20 after housing costs was 30.7%, while the equivalent figure for all UK individuals was 22%

Swinney: Only one in a thousand asymptomatic school Covid tests are positive

Coronavirus testing on staff and students without symptoms of the virus have so far confirmed just one in 1,000 as having Covid-19, the Education Secretary has said.

John Swinney said since the asymptomatic testing regime in schools began five weeks ago “0.1% of cases have been positive after confirmatory PCR testing”.

While the checks, on school staff and senior students are carried out using lateral flow testing, any positive results are then confirmed with a PCR test.

Mr Swinney revealed the results as he hailed the “quite extraordinary” take-up of the voluntary testing regime since classes have returned.

He also told MSPs on Holyrood’s Education Committee that testing for pupils, currently carried out on S4 to S6 pupils, would be extended to include all younger secondary students after the Easter holidays.

In the week ending March 7, more than 56,000 school staff and 12,000 pupils were tested for coronavirus, Mr Swinney said.

He added: “This programme is helping to break chains of transmission as early as possible, and I would encourage all those who are eligible to make use of the offer to do so when they return to school.”

Half of adults in Scotland to have first dose of Covid-19 vaccine by end of day

More half of adults in Scotland will have received a first dose of coronavirus vaccinate by the end of Wednesday, Nicola Sturgeon has announced.

The First Minister also confirmed the Scottish Government is on course to have offered a first dose to all adults by the end of July, supplies permitting.

As she announced three deaths of coronavirus patients and 692 new cases have been recorded in Scotland in the past 24 hours, she said the Scottish Government is also set to have offered a first vaccine jag to to all the JCVI priority groups by mid-April.

Speaking at the start of First Minister’s Questions at the Scottish Parliament, Ms Sturgeon said 2,249,612 people in Scotland had received a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccination as of 7.30am on Wednesday and 249,252 have received their second dose.

She told MSPs: “We are on track by the end of the day to have given a first dose to more than half of the adult population which is a very significant milestone.”

The First Minister said “virtually all” those people aged 65 and over in Scotland had now received their first vaccine dose.

A total of 93% of those aged between 60 and 64 had had their first jag, along with 63% of 55 to 59-year-olds and 41% of 50 to 54-years-olds.

Ms Sturgeon said: “All of this I think is very encouraging and very hopeful indeed.

“It means as we take part in this final session of First Minister’s Questions of this parliamentary term a return to greater normality for the country is now much more in sight.”

PM: Covid-19 inquiry an irresponsible diversion at present time

Holding a Covid-19 public inquiry now would be an “irresponsible diversion” for officials, Boris Johnson has said.

The Prime Minister told MPs that those involved in the effort to combat the pandemic must be allowed to concentrate their “energies” on the immediate priority, although he remains committed to an inquiry in future.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has demanded a “full public inquiry” into the handling of the pandemic “as soon as restrictions lift”.

Swinney: It is not certain that high school pupils will return after Easter

There is still a “certain amount of uncertainty” about whether all secondary pupils will be able to return to school full-time after Easter, the Education Secretary has told MSPs.

John Swinney said the Scottish Government’s “central planning assumption” was that all students would be back in school full-time after the holiday period.

But he said for secondary schools to have all students back in, this would need the relaxation of rules in place which currently enforce two-metre social distancing in classrooms.

The Scottish Government closed schools to most pupils for a second time at the start of this year, as part of efforts to halt increasing numbers of coronavirus cases.

All children are now back in primary schools, but secondary students have so far only been able to spend a limited amount of time in the classroom.

Mr Swinney told MSPs on Holyrood’s Education Committee that “when it comes to the secondary sector, we are proceeding with a certain amount of uncertainty”.

He had been pressed on the issue by Conservative MSP Jamie Greene, who told the Education Secretary: “I think a lot of parents are under the assumption that their children will be going back to school full-time after Easter, come what may.”

Mr Swinney said he wanted decisions on the full-time return of secondary school pupils to be made “at the earliest possible opportunity to give confirmation and certainty to families and to schools”.

But he said: “I hope the committee will understand I have to inject a certain amount of caution about being able to definitely say what will be the position, because I have to monitor the information and the data that prevails over the next two to three weeks.”

The Scottish Government will look to give schools and parents the “earliest possible clarification and confirmation of the arrangements that we possibly can do”.

He stressed the the committee: “Our central planning assumption of a return to full-time, in-school education after the Easter holidays.”

UK vaccine supplies could face stricter EU export controls

Coronavirus vaccines produced in the European Union could be restricted from export to the UK under a tougher regime to stem supplies to nations faring better in the pandemic.

Admitting it is a Covid-19 “hotspot”, the European Commission said on Wednesday it may not approve exports to nations with more advanced vaccine rollouts or where there is a better “epidemiological situation”.

The EU announced the move as it is embroiled in a row with AstraZeneca over supplies, but did not rule out Pfizer jabs being restricted to the UK if sufficient vaccines are not shipped to the bloc.

Member states were told to consider “reciprocity”, whether the destination country restricts its own vaccine exports, when authorising exports as it struck out against an alleged lack of British shipments.

70 per cent of patients hospitalised with Covid-19 not fully recovered after five months

70 per cent of patients hospitalised with Covid-19 not fully recovered after five months

Seven in ten patients admitted to hospital with Covid-19 were not fully recovered five months later, a major study has found.

Nicola Sturgeon said that “virtually all” those people aged 65 and over in Scotland had now received their first vaccine dose.

In addition she said 93% of those aged between 60 and 64 had had their first jab, along with 63% of 55 to 59-year-olds and 41% of 50 to 54-year-olds.

Speaking at the start of First Minister’s Questions, she said: “All of this I think is very encouraging and very hopeful indeed.

“It means as we take part in this final session of First Minister’s Questions of this parliamentary term a return to greater normality for the country is now much more in sight.”

Nicola Sturgeon: "We're on course to offer first doses to all the JCVI priority groups by mid April."

692 new Covid cases reported in Scotland on Wednesday - and three further deaths

Scotland has recorded three deaths of coronavirus patients and 692 cases in the past 24 hours, Nicola Sturgeon has announced.

The death toll under the measure used for the daily figures – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – is now 7,562.

Speaking ahead of First Minister’s Questions at the Scottish Parliament, Ms Sturgeon said the daily test positivity rate is 3.1%, down from 3.6% on Tuesday.

The First Minister said 321 people in hospital are confirmed to have the virus – down 20 in 24 hours – and of these, 31 patients are in intensive care, up three.

A total of 2,249,612 people received a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccination as of 7.30am on Wednesday and 249,252 have received their second dose.

Sir Keir Starmer began Prime Minister’s Questions by demanding a “full public inquiry” into the Covid-19 pandemic.

The EU said 10 million doses have been exported from the bloc to the UK while zero have returned in the other direction, as it introduced an export authorisation mechanism based on “proportionality”.

Boris Johnson says 'greed' and 'capitalism' were behind UK vaccine success

Boris Johnson says 'greed' and 'capitalism' were behind UK vaccine success

Boris Johnson has reportedly claimed “greed” and “capitalism” were behind the UK’s vaccine success.

Latest NRS figures released

A total of 9,897 people have died in Scotland with confirmed or suspected coronavirus, according to the National Records of Scotland (NRS).

The figures show 65 deaths relating to Covid-19 were registered between March 15 and March 21, down 39 on the previous week.

Of these, the majority – 80% – happened in hospital at 52, with six in care homes and seven at home or in a non-institutional setting.

The statistics are published weekly and cover all deaths registered in Scotland where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

They differ from the lab-confirmed coronavirus deaths announced daily by the Scottish Government because the NRS figures include suspected or probable cases of Covid-19.

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