Scotland is now facing the “most dangerous” weeks of the pandemic since the start of the first lockdown last spring, Nicola Sturgeon has warned as the second highest daily number of cases was recorded.
The First Minister said the New Year’s Day total of 2,539 cases was “worryingly high again” and warned Scots against first footing.
She said the “vaccine cavalry is on the way” but warned the new Covid variant was “accelerating spread” across Scotland. A study confirmed yesterday it is “hugely” more transmissible.
Despite all of mainland Scotland being in the highest tier of lockdown, she said “the next few weeks may be the most dangerous we’ve faced since” March and April.
The Covid case total was just short of the record high 2,622 cases reported on Hogmanay, following a sharp rise in the Covid rate.
2/2 The vaccine cavalry is on way, offering real hope for 2021 – but with this new variant, the next few weeks may be the most dangerous we’ve faced since Mar/April. We must act together to suppress it, to save lives and protect the NHS. 🙏 stick with it.
— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) January 1, 2021
Ms Sturgeon’s warning came after crowds of several hundred people gathered at Edinburgh Castle to see in the new year despite her warnings to stay at home.
People sang and danced before dispersing when several police vans and cars drove on to the castle esplanade.
Officers were also forced to disperse groups on Calton Hill, another traditional gathering place in the capital on Hogmanay.
More than 30 people were charged after a party was reportedly held at a rented holiday home in Aberfoyle, on the edge of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park.
The group of 32 revellers is believed to have travelled from Glasgow, flouting the Covid travel ban. Local residents called the police after seeing cars parked outside the property.
A new study by London’s Imperial College, published yesterday, found that the new variant of Covid-19 concluded the new variant increases the R number – the average number of people each carrier infects – by between 0.4 and 0.7.
Ms Sturgeon tweeted: “Today’s case numbers are worryingly high again. The new variant is accelerating spread.
“PLEASE do not visit other people’s homes just now, even today – if you first foot someone today, or hug/kiss/handshake them HNY, you are putting yourself, others & the NHS at risk.”
She added: “We must act together to suppress it, to save lives and protect the NHS. stick with it.”
Although no additional deaths were reported yesterday, following the deadliest day of the Covid second wave on Hogmanay, this was because register offices were closed.
Emma Thomson, a professor of infectious disease at the University of Glasgow, said it was important to get people vaccinated quickly.
The professor, who has been working on the sequencing of the new Covid mutation, told the BBC that lockdown was not controlling the infection “on its own”.
There were no midnight fireworks at Edinburgh Castle on Hogmanay, with a display instead being held at the Wallace Monument in Stirling.
These were televised on the BBC’s Hogmanay 2020 show in Scotland, which attracted an audience of 1.5 million at midnight – its highest figure since 2011.
A Police Scotland spokesman said: “We were aware of gatherings at Edinburgh Castle and Calton Hill around midnight on Hogmanay.
“Officers safely engaged with those in attendance and explained the current government regulations, resulting in the groups dispersing without incident.”
The force also confirmed that police received a report at around 11.10pm on Hogmanay about the Aberfoyle gathering.
The spokesman said all 32 people were charged with culpable and reckless conduct and will be reported to the procurator fiscal.