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Gregor Smith ‘feeling quite optimistic’ about latest Covid data trends

Chief Medical Officer Sir Gregor Smith.
Chief Medical Officer Sir Gregor Smith.

Chief medical officer Sir Gregor Smith has said he is “feeling quite optimistic” about the “encouraging” recent trends in Covid data as restrictions ease on large outdoor gatherings.

Limits were put on crowd sizes at outdoor events on Boxing Day, preventing more than 500 people from attending.

However, those rules are being lifted from today, and this evening’s match between Hibs and Celtic will go ahead with a full crowd.

Speaking at the Scottish Parliament last week, Nicola Sturgeon said: “The situation in Scotland just now is undoubtedly serious but perhaps less so than it might have been, and there are also some signs that we may be starting to turn a corner.”

Covid restrictions on outdoor events and matches lifted

Sir Gregor echoed those words in an interview with the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme today, saying: “When we look at the data over the last week, what we can now see is fairly distinct, encouraging signs of progress overall in the data, particularly in the case rate.

“It’s been unstable for a little while, partly because of the holiday period over Christmas and New Year, but also because of the recent changes we had to testing.

“But it does appear there has been some genuine improvement behind that.

“As a clinician, I’m always looking for another few days’ data just to make sure that trend stays locked in, but certainly I am encouraged by what I see just now.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon delivering a Covid-19 update statement at the Scottish Parliament. Picture by Fraser Bremner/Daily Mail/PA

However, he added: “Just one little caveat on that though, is that we’re probably still to see the full effect of the return of children to schools and increased socialising.

“We may well have a slight biphasic element to the current wave that we’re seeing, but certainly at the current time I’m feeling quite optimistic.”

IT issues at Public Health Scotland over the weekend meant there was no update to the number of cases or vaccinations on Sunday, with the national daily data page saying the glitch was under investigation.

It is unclear if the problem will affect the statistics that are released at 2pm this afternoon.

Self-isolation still ‘very important’

Sir Gregor, who was knighted in the recent New Year Honours, was also asked whether he would be comfortable attending a match in a stadium.

He responded by saying there were multiple measures he would take to feel “as comfortable as possible”, including taking a lateral flow beforehand, avoiding buses or trains, not stopping off anywhere before the stadium, wearing a mask, and staying away from crowded places.

Asked whether he would support scrapping self-isolation rules, as a report in the Daily Telegraph suggests the UK government is considering, the CMO said he would not advise it.

He said: “They still offer a very important aspect of the protections that we have in place and round about us to try and limit the spread of infection.

“There’s a concept that many people have in their minds just now that Omicron is a completely safe infection, and I’m afraid that’s not the case.

“You only have to look at our hospital figures just now to see that that’s the case. At this moment in time, we’re just a little bit way off yet of being able to take big, bold steps like removing isolation periods.”

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