More than 2,500 Scots likely to have Covid-19 just now, says Health Secretary

There are currently more than 2,500 people likely to be carrying the Covid-19 virus in Scotland, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has told MSPs.

She said the number of likely cases was based on the figure for confirmed coronavirus patients being treated in intensive care – 25 – multiplied by 100.

As of Tuesday morning, 499 people have tested positive for Covid-19 in Scotland, with 14 fatalities.

Ms Freeman was giving evidence before the Scottish Parliament’s Health Committee on the impact of the Coronavirus Bill.

MSPs are debating a legislative consent motion, which will provide support from the Scottish Parliament to the Coronavirus Bill, currently working its way through Westminster.

It includes provisions allowing retired medical professionals to return to help fight the epidemic as well as a range of emergency powers to encourage social distancing.

Ms Freeman was asked about estimates of the prevalence of Covid-19 in Scotland by Scottish Conservative MSP Brian Whittle.

She said: “For the number of people we have in intensive care who are Covid patients we multiply that by 100.

“At the moment I believe we have 25, so that’s 2,500. Now our scientific and clinical advisers would tell us that is probably an underestimate.

“But until we get the surveillance data properly that is the measure we run on just now.”

She said there will be a test available “in the near future” to determine whether people had antibodies to coronavirus.

This will allow those who have already recovered from the virus to be given the all-clear.

Hospital stock
The Health Secretary said hundreds of former doctors and nurses have applied to return to their professions (Peter Byrne/PA)

Ms Freeman was also asked about the numbers of former medical professionals returning to work to help fight the pandemic.

Last week, the Scottish Government urged doctors and nurses who left the healthcare sector in the last three years to consider returning to their jobs using “emergency registration” provisions issued by regulators like the General Medical Council.

The Health Secretary told the committee hundreds applied to return to their professions within the first day.

She said: “I can tell members that in the first 24 hours of asking people we had 400 individuals come forward making contact expressing a desire to return to the workforce.”

Ms Freeman said student nurses and doctors who are in the final stages of their courses would also be used by the NHS in Scotland.

Emergency powers granted by the Coronavirus Bill will expire in two years

The UK Government will review the use of the Bill every six months and Scottish ministers have the power to implement it in devolved areas.

Ms Freeman said: “No-one here wishes to have this emergency legislation and these powers. They are there because of the situation we face.

“This is a brand new virus, we are learning about it as we go and we are trying to anticipate how it will progress

“We cannot be certain that it will be over and done with this summer or this year. We don’t know that yet.

“So we need to ensure we have emergency powers for the maximum length we anticipate might be necessary.

“But equally you can end those powers sooner than two years if we are successful.”

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