Nicola Sturgeon has defended her decision to ease lockdown measures on one of the hottest weekends of the year as she called for a “collective national effort” to defeat Covid-19.
The first minister said “each and every one of us” has a part to play in suppressing the virus and the best way Scots can show solidarity is by doing “the right thing” and sticking to public health guidance.
Ms Sturgeon said she does not regret her decision to roll back restrictions before the weekend and she always knew coming out of lockdown was likely to prove even trickier than introducing measures in the first place.
“The truth is that our success or failure in suppressing this virus and keeping it suppressed will also depend on all of us as individual citizens and it will depend on our collective efforts as a society,” she said.
“We must all continue to do the right thing by each other by following all the rules and following all the public health guidance.”
The first minister’s plea came as it was revealed 510 delayed discharge patients were moved out of hospitals into Scotland’s care homes in April, taking the total transferred during the outbreak to 1,431.
Ms Sturgeon has admitted she is unable to rule out a link between the large number of untested hospital patients discharged into homes and a deadly wave of the virus that has so far seen residents account for almost half of all Covid-19 deaths in Scotland.
The latest figure, released by NHS Scotland’s statistics division on Tuesday, represents the highest proportion of discharges from hospitals into care homes in April in several years – a rise of around 16%.
The number appears to be broadly in line with previous months in 2020 except March, which saw 921 transfers recorded – around 400 above trend.
The data also confirm a significant movement of over-75s in recent months, with the number stuck in hospital falling from 1,108 in February to 331 in April.
Mandatory testing for patients entering care homes was not added to the Scottish Government’s guidance until April 21 and it has been claimed the elderly were “chased out” of hospital as part of a drive to free up beds.
Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw said: “These figures show very starkly how the over-75s were rushed out of hospital, either to care homes or back to the community. And as we now know, they weren’t routinely tested for coronavirus.
“These were the most vulnerable people in our society, and they were sent out of hospital to places where they would mingle with equally vulnerable individuals. It’s no wonder Covid-19 has spread like wildfire in our care homes.
“The SNP government now needs to explain why so many over-75s were chased out of hospital during a global health pandemic without proper testing or protection. The situation has become an issue of national disgrace for the SNP.”
A further 12 deaths of people with laboratory-confirmed cases of Covid-19 were recorded in Scotland overnight, taking the total number of fatalities to 2,375.
Ms Sturgeon warned resources may have to be diverted away from efforts to suppress the virus in the event of a no-deal Brexit, as she described the UK’s refusal to seek an extension to trade talks as “deeply irresponsible and reckless”.
Westminster has until July to ask for a delay or risk exiting the European Union on World Trade Organisation rules, and the first minister criticised the UK Government for “ploughing ahead” despite the Covid-19 crisis.
“If you take the Scottish Government, we are – as I think absolutely everybody would expect – focused on dealing with the coronavirus crisis,” she said.
“But if there is no extension request, we are going to have divert resources from that to thinking about and starting to prepare for the consequences again of a no-deal Brexit.
“I would just appeal to common sense. Does anybody seriously think right now that that is a sensible thing to be doing?
“I don’t, and I hope the UK Government comes to its senses.”