Nicola Sturgeon said she was increasingly optimistic Scotland has passed the peak in cases after “really encouraging” data showed a continuing fall in hospital admissions and intensive care cases.
The number of intensive care patients in Scotland fell for the seventh day running to 155, the lowest number since 1 April. Covid-19 hospital admissions by ambulance fell to 156 on Tuesday, the lowest level since 18 March, down from a peak of 363 on 6 April. Sturgeon said:
These figures for hospital admissions and admissions to intensive care are really encouraging and they’re cause for optimism – still cautious optimism – but optimism nevertheless.
The first minister warned, however, it was too early to start relaxing the strict lockdown and social isolation rules.
The progress is definitely there but it’s fragile at this stage, so any easing up that will very quickly send all of that into reverse.
After disclosing 77 further deaths were recorded in hospitals over the last 24 hours, taking Scotland’s hospitals fatalities total to 1,062, Sturgeon said she believed the number of fatalities would start to fall “very soon”.
She admitted, however, she was distressed by new data showing a sharp 60% increase in care homes deaths last week.
The National Records of Scotland said 1,616 people had died from confirmed or suspected Covid-19 by Sunday in hospitals or in the community since the start of the outbreak.
By last Sunday a third of those, 537, had died in residential homes, echoing the experience in other parts of Europe. The same data last week showed 25% of deaths occurred in care homes.
Opposition parties said those figures raised challenging questions about whether enough had been done to prevent the virus overwhelming care homes. Residents’ families claim in some cases GPs have refused to send ill patients to hospital or refused to visit care homes.
Sturgeon and Jeane Freeman, the Scottish health secretary, said extra emergency measures were being introduced, including extra deliveries of gowns and masks, and setting up an NHS rapid reaction unit.
But they said care homes had been told in March to introduce strict isolation and shielding protocols for their residents, and it was the homes’ responsibility to ensure staff were properly trained and equipped.