The Scottish Government has admitted the NHS could soon become “overwhelmed” in some areas due to the new coronavirus strain.
A report published on Wednesday warned that hospitals and intensive care units (ICU) might struggle to cope even if lockdown restrictions continue.
The latest “state of the epidemic” update, which is used by the government to help determine its response to the pandemic, was released as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed new limitations on click and collect services and takeaways.
A recent “step change” in the course of the Covid-19 pandemic was noted in the report, with the number of cases of a new variant “increasing rapidly” in Scotland.
It is very likely that this strain will continue to increase in dominance in Scotland in a similar way to that already seen in London and south-east England.”
The proportion of cases involving the mutant strain soared from 49.7% on January 4 to 62% by Monday this week.
“It is very likely that this strain will continue to increase in dominance in Scotland in a similar way to that already seen in London and south-east England,” the report stated.
While Scotland’s case rate had “consistently remained lower than the rest of the UK”, and vaccinations would make a “significant difference” to NHS capacity in the weeks and months ahead, the analysis signalled that the new strain is likely to put hospitals under huge pressure in the interim.
“Given the current pattern of case numbers we expect to see rising levels of infection impacting on hospital and ICU, which could lead to the potential of the NHS being overwhelmed in some areas, even under a ‘stay at home’ scenario,” the update stated.
‘Severe impact on health service’
The number of people in hospital in Scotland increased by about 25% over the last week, with the latest data showing 107 new Covid-19 patients were admitted to ICU in the period, compared to 84 a week earlier.
At the peak, in April, a total of 160 patients was admitted to ICU.
Announcing a tightening of restrictions in Holyrood, Ms Sturgeon said: “The number of new cases is still far too high and, of course, all of this is having a significant and severe impact on our health service.
“With the number of people being infected every day remaining as high as it is, the pressure on the NHS is likely to increase further and continue for some time.”
The first minister added: “So we must continue to do everything possible to reduce case numbers – this is essential to relieve the pressure on our health service and also to save lives.”