NO new patients with Covid-19 have been admitted to intensive care in Scotland for at least 10 days, as the death toll from the virus fell for a second week in a row.

With fewer than 500 critically ill coronavirus patients requiring ICU treatment so far, admissions appear to have stalled.

The Scottish Government had set a target of quadrupling Scotland’s intensive care capacity to 700 beds amid fears that the NHS would be overwhelmed.

But it comes as new statistics reveal that people living in the poorest areas of Scotland are more than twice as likely to die from the infection, with men also 50 per cent more likely than women to suffer fatal complications.

As of May 10, a cumulative total of 495 patients confirmed to have the Covid infection had been treated in Scotland’s intensive care units, according to the second report on the pandemic by Public Health Scotland.

READ MORE: Excess death rate from all causes during Covid 20% lower in Scotland than England and Wales  

Crucially, that figure was unchanged from PHS’s first report, when it stated that 495 confirmed Covid patients had been admitted to ICUs to date “as of May 3”. Although some patients ‘suspected’ of having the virus were brought into intensive care during the seven days in between, they subsequently tested negative.

The number of confirmed Covid patients in ICU has also continued to fall since the weekend, from 75 on Sunday to 68 as of yesterday, although two ‘suspected’ Covid patients were awaiting the results of tests.

The figures are likely to add to pressure on the Scottish Government to step up preparations to resume NHS elective operations, including some cancer and heart bypass surgeries, which have been put on hold to focus resources on the outbreak and limit the risk of exposing very vulnerable patients to the virus in hospital.

Thousands of other routine procedures, such hip and knee replacements or cataracts removals, were also suspended for a three-month period from mid-March, with other services such as bowel, breast and cervical cancer screening also paused for the same period.

The Royal College of Physicians Edinburgh this week urged ministers to “move swiftly but carefully towards the restoration of planned medical procedures”, adding that this “must include cancer services”.

READ MORE: Scottish Government advisor back two-track exit from lockdown that would benefit majority earlier

Intensive care admissions for Covid peaked in Scotland on March 29, when 28 patients with the infection were admitted on a single day.

Since April 6, new admissions have been falling almost steadily, but it is unclear exactly when the last Covid positive patient was admitted to ICU in Scotland.

According to the first report by the Scottish Intensive Care Society Audit Group, which covers a period up to May 2, 72 per cent of intensive care admissions were male, the median age of patients was 60, and 72% had no pre-existing conditions.

Of those who did, the most common were diabetes or respiratory disease (8.5% of patients), followed by cancer (6.6%), and cardiovascular disease (6.1%).

People from Scotland’s poorest areas accounted for 23% of ICU admissions for Covid, compared to 16% from the most affluent areas.

Overall mortality, based on the 327 patients who had completed their ICU stay by May 2, showed that 43% of patients died. That is lower than the 51% death rate reported for intensive care Covid patients in England and Wales, but may be skewed by a smaller sample size and does not include the outcomes for those patients who remained in ICU as of May 2.

It comes as the latest report by National Records of Scotland revealed that men are 49% more likely than women to die from Covid, with Scots from the most deprived areas are more than twice as likely to die from the virus as those from the wealthiest postcodes.

READ MORE: Poorest Scots twice as likely to die from coronavirus

This is in line with patterns seen elsewhere in the UK which have been linked to existing health inequalities, such as higher rates of obesity, smoking and chronic disease among the poor, as well as potentially higher risk of exposure in low-paid occupations.

Research this week from the Office for National Statistics found that security guards, care workers, builders, cleaners, taxi drivers, bus drivers, chefs and retail staff are all at a greater risk of dying from Covid.

In Scotland, 91% of those who died in April had at least one pre-existing condition. The most common (31%) was dementia, reflecting the fact that three quarters of Covid victims are 75 or older.

According to NRS, which bases its figures on death certificates, 3213 people had died with Covid by May 10, although the numbers are now falling.

From May 4-10, Covid was linked to 415 deaths in Scotland - down 110 from the previous week. It is the second weekly reduction in a row.

Care homes continue to account for the largest share of Covid deaths - 57% last week and 45% of the total to date - but the actual number of people dying in care homes was also down for the second week in a row, to 238.

Nicola Sturgeon welcomed the decrease, but stressed the Scottish Government will “continue to err on the side of caution”.

She added: “Although we are seeing positive signs in the case numbers, those in hospital and those dying from this virus, we are not through this pandemic yet.”