Covid R number in Scotland could be as high as 1.4, Nicola Sturgeon warns

14 January 2021, 15:52 | Updated: 14 January 2021, 15:57

A man walks past coronavirus graffiti in Edinburgh where stricter lockdown measures for mainland Scotland are now in force
A man walks past coronavirus graffiti in Edinburgh where stricter lockdown measures for mainland Scotland are now in force. Picture: PA

By Matt Drake

Scotland's R number could be as high as 1.4, Nicola Sturgeon warned as she said another 64 coronavirus-related deaths had been confirmed in the past day.

Ahead of publishing the latest estimate of the infection rate, the First Minister told the daily coronavirus briefing the figure remains above one.

However she added it will not yet take account of new lockdown restrictions which have been in place for the past few weeks.

In the past 24 hours, 1,707 new cases of coronavirus have been confirmed - taking the total to 157,079 since the start of the pandemic.

There are 1,829 people in hospital confirmed to have Covid-19, up by 35 in 24 hours.

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Of these patients, 142 are in intensive care - a rise of eight in the same period.

The 64 fatalities - of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days - takes the death toll under that measure to 5,166.

Ms Sturgeon also announced 208,207 people in Scotland had received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccination as of Wednesday.

The Public Health Scotland statistics indicate an increase of 16,242 on the 191,965 vaccinated 24 hours previously.

The figures came after the Deputy First Minister warned coronavirus restrictions could be introduced in Scotland if the new rules do not have enough effect.

John Swinney said there is more economic activity happening now than immediately after the first lockdown began in March last year and "obviously there are further restrictions that could be applied", though the Scottish Government hopes to avoid doing so.

Ms Sturgeon announced a tightening of Covid-19 rules on Wednesday, including a ban on drinking alcohol outdoors in public in areas of Scotland under lockdown and further restrictions on takeaways.

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Reducing which shops can offer click and collect services, strengthening the law requiring staff to work from home, and closing a loophole in the stay-at-home order are among other changes Ms Sturgeon outlined, all of which will come into effect on Saturday.

Mr Swinney said: "There is more economic activity happening in Scotland today than was happening immediately after lockdown in March of last year, so there's quite a number of sectors still able to operate that we haven't restricted in the way that we did last year.

"There are of course other things that we could do - we're trying to avoid doing that because we're trying to navigate our way through this difficult situation while supporting as much economic and social activity as is safe and supportable at any given time.

"Obviously there are further restrictions that could be applied - we don't want to have to go there, so I would encourage people to follow the restrictions that are in place.

"If we all do those things then we can avoid more stringent restrictions."

Mr Swinney said there are "some early signs of optimism", but he urged people to continue following the rules.

He said: "The virus is not accelerating as fast as it was accelerating - we had a massive growth after Boxing Day. For about 10 days after Boxing Day the virus just galloped through Scotland at a rate of increase that really surprised everybody.

"We are not seeing that rate of increase being sustained, so that's the good news, but the virus is still at a very strong level and at a much higher level than we have habitually had it within Scotland, so we need to get those levels down to avoid the pressure on the National Health Service and the wider circulation of a very dangerous virus."