The number of coronavirus cases in Scotland has fallen below a key measure that indicates the pandemic is under control, with Nicola Sturgeon saying light at the end of the tunnel is “more visible now than at any point in recent weeks”.
Giving the latest figures at the daily briefing on Thursday, the First Minister said 53 deaths from coronavirus and 1,149 positive tests have been recorded in Scotland in the past 24 hours.
But the daily test positivity rate has fallen to 4.9% – below the 5% mark at which the World Health Organisation considers a pandemic to be “under control”.
This is the first time the figure has fallen this low in more than a month, Ms Sturgeon said.
She cautioned against reading too much into a single day’s figures, but added: “Any day with test positivity below 5% – particularly given the phase of the pandemic we are in right now – is welcome.
“We shouldn’t overstate it – and I’m going to stress that point – but nevertheless I think, particularly given how grim things have been recently, we should allow ourselves to reflect just a little bit on the rays of sunshine when they appear.
“That is undoubtedly a small ray of sunshine.”
The latest figures also show 1,812 people are in hospital confirmed to have the virus, down 53 in 24 hours, and 127 patients are in intensive care – down four.
The First Minister said this indicates hospital numbers are beginning to stabilise and decline, though she warned the NHS remains under “severe pressure”.
She added: “Let’s keep focusing on the light at the end of the tunnel.
“We are not quite at the end of the tunnel yet, there are still some tough times ahead, but there is no doubt that the light is more visible now than it has been at any point in recent weeks.”
Addressing the easing of lockdown measures, she said the Scottish Government will prioritise the reopening of schools.
“There may be points in weeks to come where adults are asking me to open pubs and restaurants and open the places we as adults enjoy going, and there may be a period where I’m saying we can’t do that yet,” she said.
“And the reason we can’t do it is because we need to keep all of the flexibility we have to get children back to school.”
Ms Sturgeon also said vaccine uptake in Scotland is “beyond anything I could ever have believed would be possible”.
The First Minister said 98% of older care home residents have received the first dose of the vaccine, while more than 90% of those over 80 have also been inoculated.
She said: “I want to thank you, the public, those of you in the groups that have already been prioritised for vaccine, for coming forward in such large numbers so far.
“The uptake rates we’re seeing, and I hope this continues as we get into the younger population groups, are way beyond anything I could ever have believed would be possible – way beyond what we see in the flu vaccine programme.
“That’s testament to the willingness and the enthusiasm of people to come forward and be vaccinated for their own safety, but also to be part of that collective effort that we need to have to beat this virus.”