SURGE vaccinations will be targeted to teenagers and young people in Glasgow hotspots where Covid rates are running up to 25 times higher than Scotland as a whole.

Residents of G41 and G42 postcodes in the south of the city are being already being urged to get tested for the virus regardless of symptoms, but tonight the Scottish Government confirmed that vaccinations will be fast-tracked to 18 to 39-year-old residents.

It confirmed that NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde are "accelerating activity in line with JCVI recommendations by bringing forward vaccination of those aged 18 to 39 from these areas". 

A spokesman said: "This increased vaccination will include re-offering to those eligible cohorts and deploying additional vaccine stocks to accelerate deployment in remaining cohorts in affected areas."

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Glasgow is due to move into Level Two restrictions from Monday along with the rest of the mainland, except Moray, despite having a case rate of 74 per 100,000 - nearly three times the Scotland average.

There have been calls from some scientists to put a brake on the roadmap out of lockdown in England, where rates of an Indian variant subtype are much higher, but Scottish Government officials said "the intention has not changed" for Glasgow to ease restrictions, though the situation is being monitored closely. 

HeraldScotland: Pockets of Glasgow including Pollokshields and Easterhouse are experiencing very high rates of CovidPockets of Glasgow including Pollokshields and Easterhouse are experiencing very high rates of Covid

The spike is largely being driven by infection clusters among younger and unvaccinated people in Pollokshields, Easterhouse and Govanhill, with Pollokshields West battling a case rate of almost 730 per 100,000.

The communities are also home to large Muslim populations who are celebrating Eid, the religious festival which marks the end of Ramadan, and have comparatively lower vaccine uptake than the general population.

In Blackburn, Lancashire where the B1.617.2 variant of concern now accounts for more than half of cases, the vaccine is being extended immediately to everyone over the age of 18.

Speaking earlier, Professor Linda Bauld, chair of public health at Edinburgh University, said: “I would say that at the moment, the best approach [in Glasgow] is a local intensive approach and not only surge testing but the targeted vaccine campaign.

“You can see what they’re doing in Blackburn - that’s what we’ve got to do here.”

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The Indian variant is believed to be contributing to the rise of infections in Glasgow, although it remains unclear exactly how many cases have been detected in the city.

Public Health Scotland said that as of May 10, 35 cases of the B1.617.2 strain - one of three subsets of the Indian variant - had been detected in Scotland.

HeraldScotland: Protesters gathered in Pollokshields tonight to demand the release of two men by immigration officers. The area is currently the epicentre of the Glasgow Covid outbreakProtesters gathered in Pollokshields tonight to demand the release of two men by immigration officers. The area is currently the epicentre of the Glasgow Covid outbreak

These are all understood to be linked directly or indirectly to travel and household groups, rather than community transmission which is emerging in areas such as London and north-west England.

Public Health England say the subtype - which was escalated to a variant of concern a week ago - is "at least as transmissible" as the dominant Kent strain, but there is growing evidence in India and the UK that it is able to outcompete it, with some estimates suggesting it is around 60 per cent more transmissible.

Two thirds of people aged 16 to 49 in Scotland are still completely unvaccinated, and modelling indicates that even if the variant does not cause more severe disease it could still drive a spike in deaths by infecting many more people.

Professor Rowland Kao, chair of vetinary epidemiology and data science at Edinburgh University, said "a pause" in the exit from lockdown would make sense. 

He said: "All it might take is a bit more effort to get the numbers down low enough, to get more vaccinations into the area, delaying things a bitand then everything will be okay. 

"Take the hit now, and if it turns out to be a false alarm then you've lost a week or two but if it turns out worse you'll be really glad you did it."

Experts from the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (Sage) held an urgent meeting tonight to discuss evidence that the variant is now spreading rapidly in the UK, with cases more than doubling in a week from 520 to 1313.

Around 44% of all Covid cases in England picked up outside of hospitals are now non-Kent cases, with most - but not all - believed to be infections by the Indian variant.

Dr Christine Tait-Burkard, a research fellow in in infection and immunity at Edinburgh's Roslin Institute, said: "We have very little information as yet on how well the vaccination protects against this variant, but there's nothing to indicate that the vaccine wouldn't also protect us from severe disease from this variant."

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It comes as bars and restaurants prepare to resume indoor alcohol sales from Monday, with larger groups allowed to meet indoors in hospitality and for the first time in one another's homes without physical distancing.

Professor James Naismith, a Scottish biologist and director of the Rosalind Franklin life sciences institute in Oxford, warned that the variant “will get everywhere”.

He said he did not believe that local 'tier' restrictions would work to contain the variant, and urged the government to tackle it as a countrywide problem.

He said: “When we tried locally having different restrictions in different regions, that didn’t really make any difference.”

HeraldScotland: Moray still has the highest Covid rate by council area in Scotland, at 98 per 100,000 as of May 10Moray still has the highest Covid rate by council area in Scotland, at 98 per 100,000 as of May 10

Across Scotland, cases have risen by 46% week on week, from 1151 to 1681, but the number of people in hospital with Covid remains low at 63 - with only four patients in intensive care.

In Moray, which will remain under Level Three restrictions due to high Covid rates, NHS Grampian said there are "early signs of improvement" but new outbreaks are still emerging in areas including Lossiemouth, Keith and Aberlour.

Vaccinations have been accelerated and uptake of community testing is said to have been very encouraging.

Deputy director of public health at NHS Grampian, Chris Littlejohn, said: “It could be a further two weeks before figures show real signs of returning to normal and we cannot afford for any complacency at this point."