New #Covid Variant Recorded in Scotland

A newly identified COVID-19 variant of interest, BA.2.86 has been recorded in Scotland.

As a precautionary measure, Public Health Scotland (PHS) and Scottish Government are now working closely with Health Boards to consider bringing winter vaccinations forward for those at highest risk of becoming seriously ill from flu and COVID-19. This includes care home residents, those aged 75+ and those with weakened immune systems who were initially set to receive their vaccinations from mid-October.

The National Covid and Respiratory and Surveillance Report by Public Health Scotland was published on 31st of August 2023.

There continues to be very limited Covid testing being carried out, therefore, the extent there is of Covid including the new variant within the community is unreliable.

Working with the data that is available Covid Hospital admissions are increasing.

There is a very slight decrease in Hospital Occupancy, but bear in mind that the definition is now only for a maximum of 10 days.

 Monitoring for fragments of coronavirus’ ribonucleic acid (RNA) in local waste water samples 

You can check for your area here: Waste Water Monitoring

The latest data for the are covered by the Kirkwall Waste water system are as follows:

National Records of Scotland published weekly stats on deaths on 31st August 2023

The provisional total number of deaths registered in Scotland in week 34 of 2023 (21st August to 27th August) was 1,111 (69 or 7% above the 5-year average).  There were 24 deaths mentioning COVID-19

Those figures in more detail.

Deaths where Covid is mentioned on the death certificate

  • Age 45 – 64: 3 deaths, 1 female, 2 male
  • Age 65 -74: 7 deaths, 3 female, 4 male
  • Age 75 – 84: 9 deaths, 2 female, 7 male
  • Age 85+: 5 deaths, 4 female, 1 male

One death occurred in a Care Home, 22 in Hospital, and 1 in an Other Institution.

Of the 24 deaths involving Covid, Covid was the main cause in 15 of them.

Orkney recorded one death where Covid is mentioned on the death certificate.

There were 1,111 deaths due to all causes, an excess of 69 taken over a 5 year average. There were excess deaths in Cancer +31; Respiratory +23; and Other Causes +37.

Commenting on the new strain of Covid-19 Dr Nick Phin, Director of Public Health Science at PHS said:

“We are continuing to monitor the emergence and prevalence of COVID-19 variants in Scotland through our surveillance programme. While we are not concerned about the current levels of COVID-19, the identification of BA.2.86 in Scotland means that we are now working with Health Boards to ensure those most vulnerable to illness are protected this winter.

“Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself from serious illness and those eligible are encouraged to book or attend their appointment when invited to do so. Coming forward when called will also help to alleviate pressures on local Health Boards who are working to deliver the winter vaccination programme at pace.”

The groups below are eligible for their flu and COVID-19 vaccines this winter:

  • Frontline health and social care workers (appointments begin 4 Sept for this group)
  • Residents and staff in care homes for older adults
  • Those aged 65 and over
  • Those aged 6 months to 64 years of age who are at higher clinical risk from flu and COVID-19
  • Pregnant women
  • Carers aged 16-64
  • Household contacts of those with a weakened immune system aged 12-64

For more information visit NHS Inform:

Chief Medical Officer Professor Sir Gregor Smith said:

“Vaccination remains the best way to protect yourself and the NHS from both COVID-19 and flu viruses, and I encourage everyone to help us maintain the high uptake rates we have seen over the past three years by coming froward for vaccination when they are called.”  

“Work is ongoing to understand the new COVID-19 variant BA.2.86 more fully, however as a precautionary measure, vaccination of people at highest risk such as care home residents and people aged 75 and over is being brought forward.”

The groups below are eligible for their flu vaccines this winter, with appointments starting from 4 September:

  • aged 50 years and over
  • aged 18-49 with an eligible flu health condition
  • frontline health and social care workers
  • carers (including unpaid and young carers)
  • Teachers and support staff
  • Prison population and prison staff

While the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) recommended flu vaccination for those aged 65 and above, it also advised on the potential benefits of extending this to 50-64 year olds and secondary school pupils.

Those eligible for the childhood and school flu vaccination programme include:

  • All children aged from 6 months to 2 years in clinical risk groups (children must be aged 6 months or above on 1 September 2023).
  • All children aged 2-5 years, not yet at school (children must be aged 2 years or above on 1 September 2023).
  • All primary school children (primary one to primary seven) at school.
  • All secondary school pupils (S1 up to and including S6) at school.

The Scottish Government current advice for Covid remains as yet unchanged

There are no COVID-19 rules or restrictions in Scotland. At this stage of the pandemic we are now living with COVID-19 as a respiratory infection.

There are things you can do to stay well and protect others:

  • stay at home if you have symptoms
  • if you have symptoms and do need to go out, wear a well-fitting face covering
  • get the vaccine if offered to give you the best possible protection
  • wash your hands regularly
  • meet in well-ventilated spaces
  • support Distance Aware, for anyone who prefers others to take extra care around them

Fiona Grahame

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