The number of people in Scottish hospitals with coronavirus has fallen back below the peak in the first months of the pandemic, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
Speaking during the daily Covid-19 briefing, the First Minister said 1,499 people are currently in hospital with the virus – down 43 in 24 hours.
This is the lowest figure since January 7 and below the spring peak of confirmed cases in hospital of 1,520, recorded on April 19 and 20.
Ms Sturgeon said: “Significantly, that means that the number of Covid patients in hospital is now back below the peak of last spring, which is another wee ray of sunshine for us to feel positive about today.”
She added that the R number in Scotland is below 1.0.
“That is reflected in the decline in case numbers, in test positivity – the 4% test positivity we’ve reported today is the lowest in quite some time,” she said.
“The rays of sunshine that I spoke about last week undoubtedly are a wee bit brighter this week.”
But she stressed the situation is still “precarious”, as she revealed 48 deaths of people with coronavirus had been recorded in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of fatalities under that measure to 6,599.
The First Minister confirmed Scotland has now vaccinated more than one million people against Covid-19.
As of 8.30am on Thursday, 1,048,747 people had received their first dose.
That is an increase of 63,178 over 24 hours – the highest daily total of vaccinations administered.
“When you think about the truly dreadful weather most of the country is experiencing right now, which means that many of those administering and receiving the jag will have had to brave extreme elements, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to describe this as a heroic achievement,” Ms Sturgeon said.
“The fact that more than one million people have now received the first dose of the vaccine is highly significant.
“It means we have now vaccinated more than 23% of the adult population, and most of them are in the groups who are most vulnerable to becoming seriously ill and dying from Covid.
“It gives us real hope that even if the vaccine doesn’t have an immediate impact on transmission, we will see it start to reduce serious illness and death.”
She said the vaccination programme is “on course” to give first doses to everybody over 70 and everyone with a serious clinical vulnerability by the middle of February.
She added: “Many in the 65-69 age group will have also had their first vaccine by that date.
“This is all really positive news – particularly the uptake figures.
“People are coming forward for this in numbers that I could not have dared hope for – in my wildest dreams I would have hoped for it, but I would have been very sceptical.
“That is down to the appetite and the willingness of everybody in these groups to come together for their individual protection, but also to play their part in our collective fight against this virus.”