Jeanne Freeman coronavirus briefing RECAP: Brazilian variant cases confirmed and care home visits resume as Scotland marks anniversary of first confirmed Covid-19 case

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Monday, 1st March 2021, 2:23 pm
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The Scottish Government announced the first case of Covid-19 on March 1 2020, in a Tayside resident who had recently travelled from Italy and was admitted to hospital and treated in isolation.

But one year of restrictions on and regular visiting is set to resume in care homes today, with residents allowed to have two designated visitors each.

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Coronavirus briefing RECAP: Health secretary Jeane Freeman gave an update on coronavirus in Scotland

Last updated: Monday, 01 March, 2021, 09:00

One year since first Covid-19 case confirmed in Scotland

It is now a year since the first case of Covid-19 was confirmed in Scotland and life has changed beyond recognition from 12 months ago.

The Scottish Government announced the first case of Covid-19 on March 1 2020, in a Tayside resident who had recently travelled from Italy and was admitted to hospital and treated in isolation.

One year on, the country is once again in lockdown and 9,347 people have died with the virus, according to National Records of Scotland (NRS) data.

The first death of a Covid-19 patient in Scotland was announced on March 13 last year as confirmed cases hit 85.

The patient, treated by NHS Lothian, was an older person with pre-existing medical conditions.

By March 22, three weeks after the first confirmed case, 10 people had died and there were 416 confirmed cases.

Care homes in Scotland are set to allow visitors in today for the first time in 2021

From today, regular visiting will resume in care homes, with residents allowed to have two designated visitors each.

Each designated visitor will be able to see their relative once a week, the Scottish Government says, due to the progress of the vaccination programme.

Care home visiting has been tightly restricted during the pandemic.

However, data released last week showed care home coronavirus deaths had fallen by 62 per cent in the last three weeks, with the figure cited by Nicola Sturgeon as the first “hard evidence” of the vaccine’s impact.

Almost all residents have received the jab, along with 92 per cent of care home staff.

The government says that with the extra protection in place, the greater risk to residents’ wellbeing is from a lack of family contact.

Visitors will be “strongly recommended” to take a coronavirus test on-site and will have to wear PPE.

Cathie Russell, who has been campaigning with the Care Home Relatives Scotland group, said: “We look forward to working with care home providers, public health and oversight teams to ensure that the new guidance allows residents to enjoy meaningful contact with their closest relatives and friends once more.”

Three cases of Brazilian Covid-19 variant identified in Scotland

The Scottish Government said that three individuals who had returned to north east Scotland from the South American country, via Paris and London, had tested positive for the variant.

Health secretary Jeane Freeman said the identification of the new variant – first traced in the north-western Brazilian city of Manaus – was a cause for “concern,” but stressed the government was taking “every possible precaution.”

‘Children belong back in the classroom’ says Jamie Greene MSP

Speaking on Good Morning Scotland, the Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education said that we are in a “very different place from last year’s school closures”.

He said: “The reality is we want to get these young people back into school safely and quickly.

“I really don’t see any justification for keeping young people out of the classroom a month longer than other parts of the UK where I do think there are sensible plans in place, and ambitious ones at that to get them back into the classroom.”

He continued: “All we’re talking here is a matter of a couple of weeks, and that doesn’t sound much but it is two weeks of face to face teaching and that will make all the difference, especially as we come into the exams period where teachers have to estimate awards.”

He added: “Instead of pulling the wool over parents eyes, it’s time to be honest with them and say we have a plan to get our young people back into the classroom safely.”

He added that he has been pushing for asymptomatic testing to increase because teacher, and all school staff, should “always feel safe”.

The National Library of Scotland will document the Covid-19 pandemic for future generations

The National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh is creating an archive of publications that document and record the pandemic so that future generations will know what life was like during Covid-19.

Materials being collected by a curation team at the George IV Bridge institution include information leaflets and e-resources produced by community groups, campaigns and charities, local councils, health boards, government organisations and faith groups as well as first-hand accounts and reports of the pandemic’s impact on communities, trades and professional organisations.

Inside the infectious diseases unit where Scotland's first Covid-19 patient was treated one year ago

On March 1 2020, Michelle Wiseman, Senior Charge Nurse at the Regional Infectious Diseases Unit at Edinburgh’s Western General Hospital, got a call to say the first confirmed case of Covid-19 in Scotland was being transferred to her team’s care.

In some ways this marked the beginning of the pandemic in Scotland, but Michelle’s team, and the wider infectious disease unit, had been preparing for weeks.

Covid-19 test which gives result in 15 minutes to be trialled at Edinburgh Airport

Edinburgh airport is to trial pre-departure rapid Covid-19 testing.

The week-long trial is set to be part of the recovery plan for the aviation industry, and will start from today. The rapid tests only require a saliva sample, meaning no nasal swab and a more positive testing experience.

The trial will be open to staff and campus volunteers due to low passenger numbers and will demonstrate how testing can be scaled at airports, potentially adding to the testing capability already in place at Edinburgh Airport.

Vaccines minister says that the new Brazilian variant is a concern but that ‘there is minimal reason to believe that there may be further spread’

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said that the P.1 variant first detected in Brazil was similar in terms of its mutations to the variant first detected in South Africa.

“In terms of its profile, this P.1 variant is much closer to the South African variant, which we’ve been dealing with now for several weeks by surge testing, genome sequencing and isolation,” he told Sky News.

“This variant is a variant of concern, it is very similar in terms of its mutations to the South African variant. So, it is concerning.”

On the two cases identified in South Gloucestershire, Mr Zahawi said one had travelled from Sao Paulo through Zurich to London prior to the hotel quarantine.

“They did take a pre-departure test and filled in their passenger locator form, which is why we are able to deal with them so effectively and work with South Gloucestershire Council,” he said.

“There is minimal reason to believe that there may be further spread because they have been isolating correctly.

“But we will be doing asymptomatic testing in South Gloucestershire.”

‘The border is leaking, it’s not a full proof system’ says Jason Leitch as new Brazilian variant is found in Scotland

Speaking on Good Morning Scotland, National Clinical Director, Jason Leitch said that Scotland does more genetic testing than “any other country in the world” but that not everybody can be genetically tested.

He said that roughly one in ten samples are genetically tested at this prevalence.

“We do test all positives from high risk countries though”, he said.

“If you have come from South Africa or Brazil, the two high risk countries just now, we do send them for genetic testing.

“It’s not luck, it’s design. That’s how we’re protecting the people of Scotland, and the people of the UK, against new strains.

“But, the border is leaking, it’s not a full proof system, and the next variant might be Japanese, might be Malaysian, it could be Scottish of course, we could export it rather than import it.

“You can’t tell where the next troublesome one is going to come from.”

Jason Leitch says scientists are ‘a little worried’ about the Brazil variant because they don’t know how it will react to the immunity the vaccine offers

Speaking on GMS Prof Leitch said that people shouldn’t be concerned as there has been no community transmission and there is no evidence that it has “gone elsewhere”.

But he said that scientifically, they are a little worried because they are “not absolutely certain that this version is amenable to the natural immunity some people already have and the artificial immunity we’re creating with the vaccination.”

Jason Leitch says they are being ‘very cautious’ as they just don’t know enough about the new variant yet

“Everything we know says it should still be very effective, but we just can’t be sure yet because it just hasn’t been around long enough and the trials haven’t been completed.

“Vaccines are binary, it’s not like a paracetamol that gets rid of your headache or doesn’t get rid of your headache, it doesn’t work like that, it’s more of a continuum.

“So what might be true is that you might not have quite as much protection as you have from the existing variant but that might not be true, it may be that the vaccine effect this one just the same way, but that’s why we’re cautious.”

The travellers who tested positive for the Brazil variant did ‘nothing wrong’ says Prof Leitch

Prof Leitch said: “The measures that were in place at the time of this [the new variant arriving] were really quite rigorous.

“These individuals self isolated, they were from our high risk countries so they followed the instructions and there is no suggestion of any blame or concern about their behaviour, I think that’s very important.”

He continued: “There was some activity on social media last night suggesting they had done wrong, they have not.”

When asked if the current system would have flagged these individuals and called for them to be placed in quarantine hotels, Prof Leitch said yes, “they would have been caught by managed isolation across the whole of the UK, because they were from a high risk country.”

Prof Leitch is hopeful that all over 18’s in Scotland will be vaccinated ‘into July'

He said: “We’re hopeful that we can meet our aims of all the top nine groups being vaccinated by mid-April, and then all adults over 18 into July”.

“We’re hoping this week that we’ll see vaccination numbers rise after the last couple of weeks, we knew the last two weeks would be a bit of a dip, supply and demand rising up a little bit this week so i’m very hopeful we’ll get many more done this week”.

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