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Covid in Scotland: Lockdown lifting 'unlikely' as deaths pass 5,000

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media captionCovid in Scotland: Lockdown likely to extend to February

Scotland's first minister has said the country's current lockdown is "very unlikely" to be lifted at the end of the month.

Nicola Sturgeon was speaking as she confirmed that more than 5,000 people have now died after testing positive for the virus.

A review of the current restrictions is due to be carried out at the end of January.

Ms Sturgeon said it was possible that there would be no easing at that point.

A further 54 deaths have been recorded in the past 24 hours - bringing the total by that measure to 5,023.

But the most recent figures from the National Records of Scotland - which record all deaths registered in Scotland where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate - put the total at 6,686.

Ms Sturgeon told her daily briefing that the figures were a reminder of the toll the virus had taken.

And she said every death had caused heartbreak to friends, families and loved ones across the country.

  • The people who have died with Covid-19
  • Covid in Scotland: Where are the latest cases?
  • What are the latest Covid rules in Scotland?

The first minister also said Scotland's NHS would be under far greater pressure if the current restrictions had not been put in place on Boxing Day.

And she urged people not to raise their expectations about what will be announced when the lockdown review is completed in a fortnight as wholesale lifting of the restrictions was "very unlikely".

She added: "There may not even be any lifting of these restrictions as soon as the end of January - we will have to consider all of that carefully and set it out in due course."

All of mainland Scotland and some islands were placed into level four restrictions on 26 December, with schools remaining closed to most pupils until at least the end of the month.

A further 1,875 positive cases of the virus were recorded on Monday, bringing the total since the pandemic began to 153,423.

The number of people in hospital with the virus stands at 1,717 - an increase of 53 since yesterday and higher than the peak of about 1,500 in the first wave in April.

Of these, 133 patients are intensive care units, with Ms Sturgeon saying that the virus was putting "very acute pressure" on hospitals.

The first minister also said that 175,942 people in Scotland had received their first vaccine dose by Monday.

Opposition parties have claimed that the rollout of the vaccine has been "sluggish" in Scotland compared to south of the border - a charge that the government denies.

And they have called for greater transparency over how many people are being given the jab every day.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said on Monday that the government was aiming to vaccinate about 560,000 people in Scotland by 31 January.

image copyrightPA Media
image captionNon-essential shops have been closed in Scotland since 26 December

The Scottish government has previously said it is concerned that too many people have not been following the "stay at home" rules that are in place across the whole of the mainland and some islands.

Ministers have been discussing the possibility of imposing tougher rules on click and collect shopping and takeaway food, with an announcement expected to be made on Wednesday.

Retail industry representatives have described click and collect services as a "lifeline" for struggling businesses amid the forced closure of all non-essential shops.

And they said they had not been shown any evidence that click and collect was driving transmission of the virus.

image copyrightGetty Images

Ms Sturgeon told her daily coronavirus briefing that the government may not stop click and collect services altogether.

But she added: "If we are saying to people right now that you should not be out of your home for shopping unless it is essential, then do we need to have click and collect for non-essential services instead of having that for delivery?"

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross told BBC Scotland that he did not want to see further restrictions put in place unless there was evidence that they would have the desired effect.

He also suggested that restricting click and collect would simply result in more people going back into supermarkets to do their shopping.

Sunday worship

The Scottish government is also under pressure to lift the the current ban on public Sunday worship, with a group of 500 church leaders from across the UK - including 200 in Scotland - insisting that there is "no evidence of any tangible contribution to community transmission through churches in Scotland".

In a letter to the first minister, they claim that the ban may be unlawful and accuse the government of failing to understand that "Christian worship is an essential public service, and especially vital to our nation in a time of crisis".

A Scottish government spokeswoman said: "Test and Protect tells us where people were in their 48-hour infectious period.

"So we know that on one day last week the seven-day number for places of worship was 120, and data from yesterday shows the seven-day number for places of worship is 38, underlining the essential decision to require places of worship to close for public health reasons."

image copyrightPA Media

Meanwhile, it has been confirmed that everyone arriving in Scotland from overseas will need to show proof of a negative test from Friday.

The test will need to be "highly reliable", the first minister said, and will need to have been from the previous three days - although young children may be exempt from the restriction.

Those travelling from countries not on the quarantine exemption list will still need to self-isolate on arrival.

The new rules, which will also come into force in England, were first outlined last week.

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