On Friday, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that some lockdown measures, including mixing outside, may be lifted earlier than previously stated.
Sturgeon said she would be looking at “minor but important” measures, which may allow people to see friends and family outside, with more flexibility than the current rule which allows for only two people from different households to mix outside.
The First Minister told MPs she would update parliament next week on the government’s plans to potentially accelerate the lockdown exit plan but stressed that this could only be done with the necessary “care and caution”.
So far, a total of 7,409 deaths following a positive Covid-19 test have been recorded in Scotland, according to the Scottish government.
As of 5 March, the number of vaccinations reached 1,717,672 first doses and 108,197 second doses, with over 95 per cent of all over-65s having received a vaccine.
The general trend in data suggests the vaccination scheme and current lockdown are proving hugely successful, with the death toll at its lowest since October and new hospital admissions falling rapidly, giving hope for an earlier lifting of some restrictions.
It was also announced that from 15 March, all school students will resume some form of face-to-face teaching, with primary school pupils back at school full time and secondary school pupils set to resume normal teaching after Easter.
University students allowed to return to campus will be offered PCR testing after a health secretary Jeane Freeman made a statement saying:
“Anyone who lives in Scotland and has to do that [return to campus], and who is changing household as a result, can now request a test before they travel to their term-time address.”
The accelerated lifting of lockdown is positive news, but some concerns have been raised due to the rising prevalence of new variants.
Earlier this week, three cases of the Brazil variant were found in Scotland, after oil workers returning home had tested positive.
Scotland’s heath secretary said that 90 people were on the flight from Heathrow to Aberdeen, however 34 passengers had still not been contacted due to incomplete data.
The public were reassured that the 249 close contacts of the passengers who tested positive had been traced and there has not been any evidence of community transmission.
New variants are to be expected as the virus evolves and are often inconsequential to the general public.
However, some cases of the Brazil and South Africa strains have a more concerning mutation which could allow the virus to evade the immune system.
If this is the case, antibodies made through having the virus or getting the vaccination may not work as well against the coronavirus.
Early lab results suggest the Pfizer vaccine still protects against these variants, although less effectively.
New vaccines such as Novavax and Janssen have also released data suggesting they would be suitable to use to protect from these newer variants.
Importantly, updated vaccines are being developed continuously, and the redesigned versions will be allowed to be fast-tracked through the authorisation process, meaning new and more effective vaccines may be developed in weeks to months.
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