Jason Leitch warns Scots Covid crisis will get WORSE after highest daily deaths and hospital numbers pass peak

National clinical director Jason Leitch issued the grim warning, claiming the impact of easing curbs for Christmas would be felt within weeks.

It came as 2,309 new cases were reported, with 1,530 people in hospital and 102 in intensive care.

More than 17,500 infections have been logged in seven days.

Highlighting the shocking stats, Professor Leitch said: “It’s going to get worse over the next little while potentially before it gets better — 2,300 cases today, 2,300-odd cases tomorrow, in ten days’ time that will be hospitalisations.

“The deaths today are an astonishing number to comprehend.

“The difficulty with the data is that we need to wait for that to even out to date of death.

“That will come over the next few weeks, but that is still a hugely significant number.”

But he added: “If people have caught the virus on Christmas Day and interacted with people following Boxing Day — despite advice — that’s when the numbers will begin to increase again.”

The previous high for daily virus deaths north of the border was 84 on April 15.

Scots hospital numbers during spring’s first wave peaked at 1,520.

Across the UK, 1,325 fatalities were recorded today — the highest in a single day since the pandemic began.

Nicola Sturgeon labelled the Scots death milestone “distressingly high”.

But the First Minister insisted the figure would include some who passed away over the festive period.

Speaking at her daily briefing, Ms Sturgeon said it showed “the severity of the pressure” the health service is now under.

She added: “To be clear, that is not more than 90 people who died yesterday. It will be people who have died over a period of time.

“That does not change the fact they are all individuals who have died and have died of Covid.”

Earlier, Deputy First Minister John Swinney warned stricter lockdown measures might be needed in Scotland because levels of “human interaction” remain too high.

Ms Sturgeon echoed his comments, highlighting busier roads than the first lockdown and warning employers could face new legal restrictions if their staff are coming into work when they don’t need to.

She added: “These are the areas we’re considering. We haven’t reached decisions yet. My message to everybody is please respect the lockdown with the same seriousness as you did last March because it is as serious now.

“Indeed, you could argue that with the faster spreading strain it is even more important that we all respect the lockdown.

“So, that is a message to individuals to stay at home unless your reason for being out of your house is genuinely essential.

“Secondly, to employers, if you had staff working from home last spring and you’re asking them to come in right now, you shouldn’t be. You should be asking yourself why that is the case and instead be facilitating home working.”

Ms Sturgeon went on: “If we feel we need to put any more of that on a legal regulatory footing we will do so, because we cannot afford to have restrictions in place right now that are not operating effectively enough to stem the flow of this virus.”

She warned further cutbacks on click-and-collect shopping, take­away food and non-essential construction are also being considered.

It comes as councils were warned they should be working to limit the number of pupils allowed to go into lessons.

Bosses at Glasgow City Council revealed they will keep all schools open to enable vulnerable kids to attend.

Maureen McKenna, the local authority’s head of education, told The Herald: “In the last lockdown we didn’t see enough chil­dren and there were safeguarding issues because parents don’t identify as being vulnerable. We want to be sympathetic to parents because there are a lot who are struggling, experiencing hardship and trying to hold on to a job.”

Speaking to Holyrood’s Covid committee this morning, Mr Swinney said councils should be “free” to make those decisions.

But he added Scottish Government officials will monitor the number of youngsters in classes from next week — with the majority expected to be home-schooled.

The Deputy First Minister told MSPs that, despite the strict shutdown in force, “volumes of movement in society are greater than they were in the period immediately following lockdown in March 2020”.

And he said it meant the current lockdown could be extended beyond January. Mr Swinney added: “If we do not see a reduction in human interaction as a consequence of those restrictions, there is every likelihood we will have to put in place further restrictions.”

But a government adviser yesterday claimed Level 4 curbs imposed on Boxing Day had already helped slow the impact of Covid’s highly contagious new strain.

Speaking on the BBC, interim deputy chief medical officer Dr Dave Caesar: “I hate to say it, but it could have been worse by this time in January.

“We’re not out of the woods yet by any stretch of the imagination but I suppose we’re holding our own in very significantly challenging circumstances.

“The actions people have taken since Boxing Day have helped to blunt that spike.”

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