Covid-19 prevalence is still too high to accelerate the easing of lockdown, Jeane Freeman has said.
On Friday, Scotland recorded a coronavirus test positivity rate of 3.3%, the third day in a row it has been below 4% and the fourth day below 5% – the marker set by the World Health Organisation for the pandemic to be “under control”.
The number of people being treated in hospital also fell to its lowest number since October 21, at 924.
But the Health Secretary warned such data does not mean Scotland can move quicker than planned out of lockdown.
In First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s road map for easing the Boxing Day-imposed lockdown, the remainder of primary school pupils and more secondary students will not be able to return to class until at least March 15. All pupils are then not due back before April 5, when the stay at home order will be lifted.
Changes will be made at minimum intervals of three weeks, with Scotland then returning to the regional levels approach taken last autumn in the last week in April.
Despite the low numbers recorded in recent days, the Health Secretary told the coronavirus briefing on Friday that there will not be an acceleration of the first part of the plan.
“The three-week period is really important,” she said.
“We didn’t pick three weeks randomly out of the air, we went on the basis of clinical advice that said you need to give it a reasonable period of time to be sure that progress isn’t just being made but is being sustained.
“Now of course, if we see even better reduction in case numbers and case positivity… then as we move out of lockdown into stages then we may be able to move faster, but at this point our head room is really limited in terms of how well we have together brought cases down.
“We’ve done it very well, but not yet far enough to go further than was set out by the First Minister earlier this week.”
National clinical director Professor Jason Leitch said perspective should be applied to the figures, adding: “If you think back to last summer, these numbers were much, much lower when we were beginning to get to very low numbers.”
Prevalence of the virus, Prof Leitch said, has “stuck”.
He added: “It’s stuck at 100 (per 100,000 of the population) – it’s been 104 most of this week, it’s 102 today… last July, it was 1.1 per 100,000,.
“The WHO say you should try and get it below 50 and then below 20.
“We have nine local authorities below 50 and only two – Shetland and Orkney – below 20.
“That 104 is stubbornly high and masks a range between 219 to zero.
“We have to hold our line in order to get all of them down further.”
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