Six of the ten areas worst-hit by Covid in Europe are currently in Scotland, according to data that comes amid mounting pressure on Nicola Sturgeon to halve the time between vaccine doses.
World Health Organization (WHO) data shows Tayside has the highest infection rate on the continent, with 1,079 cases per 100,000 people reported over the last two weeks.
Lothian, Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Fife, Lanarkshire and Ayrshire and Arran are all also in the top 10 worst-hit regions.
The North West and North East of England and North East also made it into the rankings, as did Moscow in Russia and a city in Kazakhstan.
Experts say the recent surge in infections in Scotland was caused by the Indian ‘Delta’ variant taking hold in the nation, but they have also blamed the spike on young men meeting up to watch Euro 2020.
MPs have called for countries to slash the gap between vaccines to curb the spread of the virus and protect the thousands expected to be infected in the next few weeks from ending up in hospital.
But Professor Jason Leitch, the Scottish Government’s national clinical director, yesterday insisted maintaining an eight to twelve-week window between jabs ensures more protection than decreasing the waiting time.
Six of the ten worst affected areas by Covid in Europe are in Scotland, World Health Organization (WHO) data has shown. Tayside has the highest infection rate on the continent, with 1,079 cases per 100,000 reported in the last two weeks
Boris Johnson yesterday announced all Covid restrictions would be lifted in England on July 19, paving the way for Freedom Day to go ahead as planned.
Scotland’s final unlocking date of August 9 will only go ahead if crucial vaccination goals are hit, Ms Sturgeon has already said.
But some coronavirus experts have warned it could be too soon to relax restrictions north of the border, with the nation facing the worst case rate in Europe.
Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland, Professor Leitch said natural immunity in the nation had not caught up with the recent surge in cases caused by the Delta variant.
Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon faces pressure to halve the time between Covid vaccine doses
He said: ‘It’s got seeded into our biggest, dense city in Glasgow and we’ve got less natural immunity because we haven’t been at the top of this league table throughout the pandemic.
‘It’s not a league table I want to top and I want to get us off there as quickly as we possibly can.’
Professor Leitch added that he expected Scotland’s cases were likely to overtake other parts of Europe over the coming weeks.
He said the surge in cases may also have been partly fuelled by large gatherings during Euro 2020 games, with Scotland playing in its first national football competition since 1998.
Professor Leitch said: ‘Scotland being out [of the Euros] is a very, very unfortunate from a sporting perspective, but probably better from a Covid perspective.’
And he added hospitalisation numbers in the country are yet to reflect the huge increase in cases seen across the country.
He said: ‘We have to watch the translation of those cases into hospitalisations. Hospitalisations are now going up a little, but they’re not at the levels they were in the first and second waves.
‘Intensive care is stable — [there are] really low numbers of Covid cases in intensive care.’
The WHO data, published on an online dashboard, showed after Tayside, Lothian had the highest infection rate in the fortnight ending July 3.
It was followed by Lothian (1,079 per 100,000), North East England (846), Greater Glasgow and Clyde (824) and Nur-Sultan in Kazakhstan (735). While Kazakhstan is not in Europe, it is in WHO’s list of European regions.
The rest of the top ten was rounded out by North West England (699), Moscow in Russia (669), and Fife (646) and Ayrshire and Arran (602) in Scotland.
Scotland’s seven day case rate as a whole is 405 per 100,000 people as of June 30 — nearly two times higher than the rest of the UK (229).
Hospitalisations are also rising in the nation, jumping 51.1 per cent in a week on June 29 to 62 daily admissions — its highest daily count since March 1.
Experts say the recent surge in infections was caused by the Indian ‘Delta’ variant taking hold in the nation, with the seven-day case average reaching at an all time high of 3,176 on June 29
The seven day infection rate has been climbing in Scotland in recent weeks, although the speed of growth (shown in this graph) has slowed
Hospitalisations are also rising in the nation, jumping 51.1 per cent in a week on June 29 to 62 daily admissions — its highest daily count since March 1
Self-isolation will not be dropped for the double-jabbed and children who are ‘pinged’ until AUGUST 16
Self-isolation will not be dropped for the double-jabbed who are ‘pinged’ for coming into contact with an infected person until August 16, Sajid Javid announced today.
The Health Secretary said the ‘protective wall’ thrown up by the vaccine drive meant that ministers can ‘look afresh’ at the contact tracing rules.
From the middle of next month people who have received two doses — with the second administered at least two weeks previously — can take PCR tests rather than self-isolating. Under-18s will also not be subject to the restrictions from the same date.
Earlier, Mr Javid admitted coronavirus cases could top 100,000 a day by the summer as the government pushes ahead with the unlocking.
The nation is now administering about 11,000 second doses a day down from more than 50,000 in April, despite the WHO suggesting waiting times for Pfizer’s jab ‘should not exceed six weeks’.
Professor Leitch insisted people in Scotland have to wait at least eight weeks for their second doses, in line with current guidance from the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).
Walk-in vaccination centres in Scotland opened up yesterday but people who have had their first jab within eight weeks are being turned away.
Ms Sturgeon said she was sticking to the eight to 12-week window based on supply. In June she 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.’
Professor Leitch said vaccine supplies were reasonable but Pfizer and Moderna ‘have been a little bit constrained over the last few weeks’.
‘They are just coming up a little bit, which is why we can now run drop-in clinics,’ he said.
‘You can only vaccinate with a second dose at eight weeks. We can’t for public health reasons move that further forward than eight weeks because you get maximum protection.
‘The compromise is we have moved from 12 weeks to eight weeks with the JCVI helping us make that decision.
‘The clinical advice is very, very clear to do it at eight weeks and don’t make it shorter because you won’t protect people enough.
‘The JCVI, with all of the boffins who work on vaccination including the ethicists and immunologists… tell us which gap to use depending on your pandemic.’
The WHO’s current advice for the mRNA vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna is for second doses to be given within four weeks if possible, but no longer than six weeks ‘in the event of limited supply’.
An explainer document released by the organisation in January said: ‘Delay of the second dose should not exceed 42 days (six weeks), in the event of limited supply. Both doses are necessary for protection.’