Politics

Sturgeon drops the ball: SNP shamed as WHO brands Scotland ‘Covid capital of Europe’

Sturgeon says new variant is ‘dominant’ in Scotland

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The shocking new report from the World Health Organisation (WHO) showed Scotland was the only country in Europe that had a case rate of 150 per 100,000 of the population. The report also revealed six of the continent’s top ten coronavirus hotspots were in Scotland – with all of the top three north of the Border.

Of the data, Tayside recorded the worst infection rate, with 1,080 cases per 100,000 people in the last two weeks.

According to the latest ONS infection survey figures, Scotland is also believed to have the highest Covid rate in the UK, with estimated levels in the Scottish population 73 percent higher than in England, triple those in Wales and more than four times higher than those in Northern Ireland.

With the surging case numbers, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon acknowledged that the Test and Protect contact tracing system is “under pressure” but insisted it is “coping well”.

But on Saturday, Scottish Health Secretary Humza Yousaf confirmed that contact tracers are now only texting primary contacts rather than calling in all but the most high-risk or complex cases.

Scottish ministers have also come under pressure after the Scottish Government said masks would remain mandatory in Scotland after Freedom Day despite regulations being scrapped in England.

The whole of Scotland is expected to move to Level 0 on July 19 before almost all major restrictions are then lifted in August.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar now wants the Scottish Parliament to be recalled from recess as he warned that the exit from the pandemic “rests on a knife-edge”.

The Glasgow MSP, added: “It is becoming clearer by the day that the Scottish Government have allowed Covid to become out of control in Scotland and the response from ministers has just been too slow.

“Five weeks ago, before this recent spike took hold, Scottish Labour called for walk-in vaccination centres to become the norm – but ministers dawdled and now our exit from the pandemic rests on a knife edge.

“Right now we should be ramping up efforts to contain the virus, but instead the SNP cut corners on Test and Protect and let the vaccine rollout stall.

“Parliament needs to be recalled urgently so ministers can answer questions on this growing crisis.”

Annie Wells, Scottish Conservative health spokesman, said: “It’s shocking and deeply concerning that Scotland is fast becoming the Covid capital of Europe.

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“The SNP are trying to spin a positive picture that they are on top of this situation when in reality the only thing they are on top of is the Covid hotspot tables.”

The Glasgow MSP added: “‘These spiralling case numbers are a stark reminder we cannot be complacent in our fight against the virus.

“Instead of appearing on TV cameras attempting to justify failings, the SNP Government must fix the Track and Trace system, speed up the vaccine rollout and ensure clinical decisions retain the confidence of the public.”

Linda Bauld, professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh stressed there may be a “slight delay” to easing restrictions on July 19 if case numbers do not fall.

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She added: “At the moment, the mood music is that we’re proceeding with these dates, but I think the Scottish Government in particular has been consistently quite cautious. 

“I don’t think they would reject the idea that there might be a slight delay at the next stage in the middle of July if these numbers don’t settle down.”

In response, a spokesperson for Scotland’s Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said the number of new cases remains a “cause for concern” with the Delta variant driving infections.

They added: ‘We are progressing the final stages of our vaccine rollout as quickly as we can. 

“This is limited by supply, we can only give Pfizer to younger age groups.”

A Scottish Government spokesman added: “There is around 8 to 10 per cent lower population immunity in Scotland, compared to England and Wales, as fewer Scots had the virus in earlier stages, which makes the population potentially more susceptible to the Delta variant.”

Last week saw the most coronavirus cases than at any point during the pandemic, with a peak of 4,484 new infections recorded.

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