ALMOST a thousand patients have developed coronavirus - and more than 200 of them have died - after being admitted to hospital for other conditions, the Scottish Government has confirmed.

It means one in eight of all Covid deaths in hospital in Scotland involved someone who first fell sick while being treated on a non-Covid ward.

The revelation, the first clue to the scale of hospital-acquired coronavirus, raised fears the disease has been rampaging within the NHS.

All the patients are believed to have either acquired the virus from hospital staff or other patients, or unwittingly brought it with to hospital them before exhibiting symptoms.

The Scottish Government does not yet not know many patients are in each category.

LATEST UPDATE: Calls for independent inquiry into more than 200 hospital-acquired Covid-19 deaths

The patients developed coronavirus on non-Covid wards between March 18 and June 3.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman revealed on Thursday there had been 125 'incidents' of Covid on other wards, but did not define what she meant by an incident.

Nor did she say how many people were involved. The outbreak figure was widely interpreted as meaning 125 patients had fallen sick.

However after being pressed by The Herald, the Government confirmed an incident could involve more than one patient, and subsequently admitted the number of patients was 908 and that 218 of them had died of Covid-19.

It means that, on average, each of the 125 incidents affected more than seven patients.

It also means six per cent of all of Scotland's confirmed Covid cases first became ill in hospital after being admitted for a different reason, leading to 12% of all hospital deaths and 5.6% of all deaths from coronavirus.

A Government source said the figures were not released initially in case they were not sufficiently robust.

Opposition parties said the figures were shocking and attacked the Government for failing to be more open about the scale of the problem, despite Nicola Sturgeon's repeated boast that she is being as transparent as possible.

The data also raised concerns about the adequacy of infection control procedures and personal protective equipment in the NHS.

Many of the infections occurred when the NHS was transferring huge numbers of delayed discharge patients into care homes without testing them for coronavirus.

The drive to clear NHS beds in readiness for victims of the pandemic saw 921 delayed discharge patients moved to care homes in March and 510 in April.

Testing would-be residents only became mandatory after April 21.

Covid has been implicated in 3,911 deaths in Scotland up to May 31, of which 1,815 were in hospitals and 1,818 in care homes.

Last month whistleblowers claimed the virus spread through Glasgow's Gartnavel hospital as if it was 'a cruise ship' after patients were moved from the nearby Queen Elizabeth University Hospital to free beds and 25 elderly people died.

More than 20 ward closures occurred across NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde's hospitals in March and April.

READ MORE: Labour: Freeman must 'come clean' over discharging untested hospital patients into care homes

Labour MSP Monica Lennon said: "It's absolutely shocking that almost 1000 people have caught Covid-19 in Scottish hospitals and the Scottish Government kept it a secret for as long as possible.

"We still don't know how many of these patients became seriously ill or died. Nicola Sturgeon and Jeane Freeman should have been upfront from the beginning.

“The whole time they’ve been telling the public to stay at home in order to protect the NHS they failed to mention that the virus was spreading through our hospitals.

“These outbreaks coincide with older people being discharged from hospitals into care homes. An urgent independent inquiry is needed.

“The Scottish Government has been too slow in providing PPE, too slow in providing testing and too slow in telling the truth.

“It’s vital that all hospital outbreaks and deaths connected to them are properly investigated by the COPFS and Police Scotland, where appropriate.”

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Miles Briggs added: “It’s quite clear that this announcement wasn’t a mistake it was a deliberate attempt to mislead.

“The Health Secretary announced that 125 incidents of Covid infection took place in hospital, when in reality almost a thousand patients were infected. There can be no other conclusion except the SNP simply cannot be trusted to tell the public the truth.

“Nicola Sturgeon has said she wants to be fully transparent but we clearly see games being played by the Health Secretary and attempts to twist the statistics again to mislead.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP said: “If the Government knew that these incidents involved almost seven patients per incident then they should have said so.

“This is a disappointing response from the Scottish Government to a very important issue.

“People need to have confidence their Government is being frank about how they are handling this crisis.

“The Scottish Government needs to be open and transparent with the public from now on rather than waiting to have the true figures prised out of them.”

Ms Freeman revealed the 125 outbreaks in a Holyrood written answer, saying: “In the period up to 3 June, Health Boards reported to Health Protection Scotland a total of 125 incidents involving Covid-19 cases outside the Covid-19 wards.

“Of these incidents, 120 are now classified as closed.

“Incidents are classified as closed by Health Boards when there is no evidence of continuing transmission taking into account possible contacts and the incubation period of the virus.

“Some incidents are also closed where there are sufficient isolation facilities or where Covid-19 positive patients are transferred to Covid-19 wards.

“These reports constitute incidents of suspected transmission in hospitals.

“Because of the varying incubation period of Covid-19 it will have been the case that some patients admitted have not presented with symptoms on admission but will have already acquired the virus in the community.

Responding to the accusations of secrecy, a Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Any deaths from COVID-19 associated with these incidents will have been included in information regularly confirmed by the Scottish Government.

"These claims are utterly unfounded. We are committed to transparency and openness while ensuring that all figures that are published have first been robustly validated to ensure accuracy.

“Work is under way to seek to establish validated data about healthcare acquired infections of Covid-19 and this will be published as soon as possible.

“Health Boards are implementing a range of measures to minimise any potential risk of coronavirus transmission in hospital, following the latest guidance from Health Protection Scotland on infection prevention and control, and PPE guidance.”