Nicola Sturgeon has said there are signs for “cautious optimism” about the Covid-19 outbreak in Glasgow, which remains at a higher restriction level than anywhere else in Scotland.
The First Minister told a Scottish Government briefing there may now be signs that cases in Glasgow are stabilising.
Glasgow City Council is the only local authority area in to remain in Level 3 of restrictions – prohibiting different households mixing at home and meaning hospitality venues cannot sell alcohol indoors.
Travel in and out the area is prohibited.
Ms Sturgeon said: “In Glasgow, the seven-day average of new cases has increased since Friday: from 112 new cases per 100,000, to 137.
“However, it’s important to recognise that the extensive public health efforts that are underway in Glasgow will take time to work through, given the scale and complexity of the city so it’s important that we don’t lose heart.
“In fact, just in the last two days or so, we may have started to see some signs that case numbers are stabilising. Test positivity has also remained fairly stable over the past few days, at around 4%, so that would be another reason to be cautiously optimistic that we’re not seeing test positivity shoot up on an ever-increasing basis.”
She said there are also positive signs in East Renfrewshire, which remained in Level 2 on Friday despite having a higher seven-day average case rate than Glasgow.
Cases in Scotland as a whole are rising with numbers doubling in the past 16 days, she said, but from a “very low level”.
The latest data on Tuesday shows two deaths of coronavirus patients and 318 new cases were recorded in the past 24 hours.
It means the death toll under this daily measure, of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days, is 7,666.
Ms Sturgeon said while some of the recent case rise would be due to higher testing levels, the percentage of tests that were coming back positive – 2% on Tuesday – had been “creeping up”.
She added: “Some of the increase in case numbers being recorded just now will be due to the easing of restrictions over the past month.”
But she said “another important factor” was the latest variant of Covid-19.
The First Minister said while case numbers were rising they were still “quite low relative to the situation we experienced in the early part of this year” – saying this also applied to hospital and intensive admissions – with the number of hospital patients reaching more than 2,000 in January as the second wave hit.
She said 97 people are in hospital with recently confirmed Covid-19, up three on the previous day. Of these, six are in intensive care, up one.
Ms Sturgeon said vaccination may allow the country to “change our response” to the virus.
She said: “Increasingly we are monitoring whether and to what extent vaccination might be breaking that link between rising case numbers and significantly rising cases of serious illness and death.
“And if that does prove to be the case, as we hope it will, we hope our response to this virus can evolve as well.”
She said this “might mean we don’t have to react quite so aggressively with tough restrictions in the face of rising case numbers”.
She added this would be a “key factor” in decisions going forward, both in relation to Glasgow and the country as a whole.
A decision on any changes to restrictions levels will be made on Friday.
Ms Sturgeon said Scotland had reached the “fantastic milestone” of having administered more than five million doses of Covid-19 vaccines, with 3,138,366 first doses and 1,881,214 second doses.