Every adult in Scotland is set to be fully vaccinated by mid-September, Nicola Sturgeon announced on Friday, raising hope that an acceleration of the jabs rollout will mean a return to near-normality within weeks.
The First Minister announced that all adults will have been booked in for a first dose by the end of next week, five weeks ahead of the original late-July target, with all initial doses to be administered by July 18.
Speaking at her coronavirus briefing on Friday, Ms Sturgeon said she was “increasingly confident” that “vaccines are the way back to normality”. Details on what life would look like “beyond level 0” are set to be published next week.
“Quite literally every single one of us who gets these jabs is representing a step back towards normal life,” she said.
Because the UK’s vaccine committee has now recommended shortening the interval between jabs from 12 to eight weeks, the First Minister said she hoped Scotland would be on track to complete second doses by mid-September.
“The caveat I’ve got to put in there is that is dependent on us having the supply to do that – but we are wanting to give second doses eight weeks after first doses.”
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Focus on deaths and hospitalisations
It comes as the country recorded two Covid-related deaths and 950 new cases in the last 24 hours. However, persistently high case rates have not translated into a rapid increase in deaths and hospitalisations, with a total of 128 people in hospital with confirmed Covid overall and just 12 in intensive care.
Despite the controversial decision last month to keep Glasgow in harsher restrictions than the rest of the country for three weeks over concerns around delta variant case rates, Ms Sturgeon has since appeared to pay closer attention to deaths and hospitalisations as the vaccination programme continues to be a success.
SNP ministers had previously faced fierce criticism from opposition parties and businesses for citing case rates as a reason to keep entire council areas in harsher measures than had originally been planned in their route map out of lockdown.
But when asked on Friday about how alarming the high case levels are, with Dundee and Edinburgh both having far higher rates per 100,000 than Glasgow when it was kept in Level 3 last month, Ms Sturgeon said these were not resulting in the same burden of illness because of vaccines.
No further changes to restrictions
While she stressed that “we should never be complacent about rising case numbers”, the First Minister said she hoped “the worst we face is a slowing down of our exit from restrictions” and insisted she is “still hopeful” Scotland will get back “to something much closer to normality” this summer.
Meanwhile, Prof Jason Leitch, national clinical director, said the public health advice is “just to be cautious” at this stage until more Scots are vaccinated.
However, despite hope for later in the summer, Ms Sturgeon reiterated that no further changes to the current levels of restrictions will be made next week.
Most of the Central Belt, as well as Stirling and Dundee, are currently in Level 2 of the Scottish Government’s five tiers of restrictions. Other parts of the country are in Level 1 and many of the islands are in Level 0.
While it was hoped the entire country could move down into Level 0 on June 28, this date has now been pushed back to July 19 to “buy sufficient time for vaccination to get ahead and stay ahead of the virus”.
Businesses and opposition parties have lambasted some guidance as contradictory and inconsistent, with particular fury over thousands of football fans being allowed to gather in Glasgow’s fanzone while parents cannot attend outdoor nursery graduations.
Meanwhile, university principals on Friday called for an easing of restrictions affecting researchers, which means academics must work two metres apart, despite a one-metre limit being in place in venues such as pubs.