Coronavirus case numbers in January “could have been worse”, according to a top medical adviser, but Scots have been warned they are “not out of the woods yet”.

Interim deputy chief medical officer Dr Dave Caesar has said that restrictions placed on Scots on Boxing Day are working, but compliance needs to remain at a high level to ensure the more transmissible strain of the virus does not spread.

All of mainland Scotland and Skye were placed into Level 4 restrictions from December 26, before a lockdown was enforced earlier this week.

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“Our case numbers are high, they’re not as high as they could have been if we hadn’t taken the measures that we undertook from Boxing Day,” he told the BBC.

“Our health system is under serious pressure but is coping.

“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.”

HeraldScotland: Coronavirus Christmas

Restrictions were eased at Christmas

With the easing of restrictions on Christmas Day, that allowed up to eight people from up to eight households mix indoors, some had predicted a spike of cases in January.

However, Dr Caesar said, the actions of the public and policymakers to implement and adhere to tough restrictions may have blunted the force of the spike.

He said: “It might not have passed completely, so let’s not pat ourselves on the back too early.”

But he added: “The actions that people have taken since Boxing Day have helped to blunt that spike, I think we are seeing a degree of that, but I would argue that we have another couple of weeks of just being absolutely super vigilant, we absolutely need to see where the trajectory of this is going and we need to follow that guidance as much as possible.”

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said this week that lockdown restrictions in England could remain in place until March.

When asked about the possibility for the same time frame in Scotland, Dr Caesar said: “I don’t think anything is ruled out, but the quicker that we can control this virus, the quicker we can release these restrictions, undoubtedly.”

Meanwhile, the Scottish Government announced travellers coming in from abroad would have to present a negative Covid-19 test before entering Scotland.


Changes are planned for travel

In a move that Edinburgh University Professor Linda Bauld said the UK was one of the last countries in the northern hemisphere to introduce, travellers will be asked to present a result from the three days before they travel.

On Thursday, a statement from the Scottish Government said the system would be in place as soon as possible, but Dr Caesar said this could take one to two weeks.

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“Imagine we would be looking to implement something in the next week or two, I would have thought,” he said.

“It’s going to be a number of days rather than weeks, I would have thought, but it will be very soon considering what we’re asking of people.”