Nicola Sturgeon today warned Scotland must ‘step up’ its efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus if it is to avoid another nationwide economic shutdown.
The First Minister said Scotland was at a ‘key moment’ in the battle against the disease after a recent surge in case numbers.
She said ‘as we have released ourselves from lockdown we have also released the virus from lockdown’ and that could force her to ‘put the brakes on’ plans to further ease restrictions.
Ms Sturgeon also said the increase in cases was largely being driven by younger people ‘interacting more’ as she cautioned if such behaviour continues the virus ‘will eventually seep into older and more vulnerable groups’.
No new coronavirus deaths have been reported in Scotland in the last 24 hours but 146 new cases have been recorded.
A total of 2,496 patients have now died in Scotland after testing positive for coronavirus.
Speaking during the Scottish Government’s daily coronavirus briefing, the First Minister said 21,543 people have tested positive for the virus in Scotland.
Of the new cases, 78 are in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 19 in Lanarkshire and 13 in Lothian.
Scotland’s latest review of lockdown restrictions is due to take place on Thursday but Ms Sturgeon said ‘it may be that we have to put the brakes on some further changes’.
‘We must take this trend seriously and if we want to avoid having to close parts of our economy down again, and I think we all want to avoid that, we must step up our other ways of keeping Covid under control,’ she said.
‘This really is a key moment, and I want therefore to be pretty frank with you in my assessment today.’
Sunday’s figures showed 208 positive cases were recorded in the previous 24 hours in Scotland.
Ms Sturgeon said the last time more than 200 cases were reported in a single day was May 8 – but she said there were ‘important differences’ between the situation now and then.
She said a lower proportion of those being tested were now confirmed as having coronavirus, adding that earlier in the year the daily case numbers were ‘probably more of an under-estimate’ than they are now, with more people now being tested.
She added that on May 8 there were 75 people in intensive care with coronavirus and over 1,000 people in hospital with the disease – significantly higher than the totals now.
However, she warned: ‘We have a very definite trend at the moment. In some ways it shouldn’t surprise us, in recent weeks we have opened up most of our economy.
‘But as we have released ourselves from lockdown we have also released the virus from lockdown.’
Ms Sturgeon said younger people currently make up a higher percentage of positive cases.
She stressed ‘we really must take this very seriously’ and that even for younger people Covid-19 could be a ‘really nasty disease’.
Ms Sturgeon added: ‘If transmission takes hold again, even if it starts in the younger, healthier part of the population, which it appears to be doing, because younger people are interacting more, it won’t necessarily stay in that part of the population.
‘It will eventually seep into older and more vulnerable groups. To be blunt some young people will go on to infect their older friends or relatives.
‘And it is at that point we could see again more deaths and serious illnesses happen.’
Ms Sturgeon conceded that following public health advice was ‘tedious’ and ‘inconvenient’.
But she added: ‘The virus is spreading again.
‘It is not an option simply to do nothing about that.
‘Or if we were to do nothing we risk in the weeks ahead going back to a mounting toll of illness and death.
‘Let’s not take that risk.’