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Sturgeon announces £380m funding to help health boards as ‘milestone’ reached in vaccination roll-out

The First Minster leading a Covid briefing.

The Scottish Government has announced a further £380million funding will be allocated to help health boards cope with Covid-19.

At her briefing today, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the cash would help cover the cost of PPE, Test and Protect and the vaccination programme – which, she revealed, has today hit a “milestone”.

More than half of the population has now been fully vaccinated, and to increase that even more, drop-in appointments will be on offer from every mainland health board from Monday.

Ms Sturgeon said: “More than 60% of those eligible for the vaccine have now had both doses, but as of today, more than 50% of the entire population is now fully vaccinated.

“That is an important milestone and one that will be increasing our levels of protection against this virus.”

Another 3,823 positive cases have been confirmed in the last 24 hours, down from yesterday’s record high of 4,234.

Grampian has recorded 322 cases – its highest in a day. Stonehaven in particular has had a surge in cases, with many businesses closing as a result.

Four deaths have also been registered across Scotland.

Drop-in clinics make getting Covid jab as ‘easy as possible’

All mainland health boards will offer drop-in clinics as the roll-out nears the target of all Scottish adults receiving at least one dose.

Everyone aged 18 and over will be able to attend one of the walk-in centres for their first jab or – if eight weeks have passed – their second dose without needing an appointment.

Ms Sturgeon added: “We are trying to make this as easy and accessible as possible – you can turn up at a centre, or keep your scheduled appointment.”

She added that the success of the vaccination programme had helped prevent another lockdown as cases continue to rise.

“We are continuing to deal with a surge in new cases; it is heavily driven by the dominance of the Delta variant.

“Vaccination is the reason that this surge in cases hasn’t led to the reimposition of a strict lockdown.

“I think it would have done that at any earlier stage in this pandemic but now – and this is the positive thing about vaccination – the vaccines are doing much of the work that lockdown measures previously had to do.”

NHS Grampian has already been offering drop-in vaccination appointments at P&J Live. Picture: Chris Sumner

But she warned against complacency, and made a plea for “renewed caution”.

“I want to assure you that we are not being complacent about this,” she said.

“Our priority, our plan, is to extend vaccine coverage as quickly as possible. That is our best line of protection.

“But we will also be encouraging renewed caution on behalf of the population while we do so, because our biggest vulnerability just now is that – notwithstanding the success of the (vaccine rollout) programme – there are still quite a lot of people who do not yet have the protection of both doses.

“That’s why we’re making it easier for people to get vaccinated, and I want to stress that we are vaccinating as quickly as supplies and the clinical advice on the timing of second doses, allows us to do.

“And while we do this, our collective priority must be to do all we can to slow the virus down, and that really matters.”

Funding to support health boards

The £380million funding boost was announced as NHS Grampian admitted it was struggling to cope with the demand on Test and Protect and NHS Highland reported growing pressures on services due to shortages caused by staff self-isolating.

The funding – which is on top of £1.7m provided last year – is broken down into £90.3m for Test and Protect, £76.8m for Covid and extended flu vaccinations and £85.5m for PPE.

The remaining money will be used for additional staffing, equipment, maintenance and IT. Health Secretary Humaz Yousaf has also pledged a national recovery plan for the NHS will be published within the first 100 days of the government.

We’ll send buses to you

Ms Sturgeon confirmed that in wave one and two Scotland had been “behind and below” the UK curve, however the country has now overtaken it.

When asked to provide a percentage a figure for the percentage of younger people who are rejecting the vaccination programme, Ms Sturgeon declined.

Instead, she said: “Younger people tend to be working and they tend not to find it as easy to turn up but uptakes are still higher than flu. It’s not that we are worried, it’s that we want to reach every eligible person in the country and we are not giving up on that.”

National clinical advisor Jason Leitch, who also took questions at the briefing, said: “We will make it easier for you, we will come to you in buses.”

Football gets a kick

Earlier today, Professor Martin McKee, of the European public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said the spike “coincides very much” with the incubation period of the virus after the match at Wembley, which finished 0-0.

Rising cases are linked to football matches. Ms Sturgeon was asked if there could have been some stronger messaging form the government.

She said: “People were asked not to travel to London without a ticket.

“Has football had an impact, we think yes. Is it entirely the explanation for what we are dealing with? Absolutely not, we have community transmission.”