The emergence of the highly-virulent Delta strain of coronavirus has cost the fight against the pandemic about “8-10 weeks”, Scotland’s national Clinical Director has said. 

Professor Jason Leitch aid that the appearance of the variant meant that efforts to curb the spread of the disease with one dose of vaccine had been undermined and that the ‘game had changed’. 

He said that one dose only offered about 30 per cent protection from the virus, and the strategy will be to provide as many second doses as possible, resetting the timeline by more than two months - meaning restrictions could be in place into August and beyond.  

READ MORE: Boris Johnson puts lockdown lifting on hold amid speculation Nicola Sturgeon will follow suit

His comments come as Boris Johnson is reportedly preparing to extend England’s emergence from Covid measures for four weeks to July 19. 

In Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon has set a date of 28 June for the country to be put into level zero, but is due to provide an update tomorrow.  

HeraldScotland:

The race is now on to supply second doses 

Speaking to BBC radio Scotland, Prof Leitch said: “The Delta variant has changed the game in one crucial way. Everything still works - distancing, ventilation, hand-washing - but what’s new about the Delta variant, and this is horrid, is that the second dose is required for decent protection. 

“You get about 30 per cent protection from one dose, you get 80-45 per cent protection from two. So, if you are thinking of this as a timeline, we’ve lost about 8-10 weeks on that journey. 

“We’ve vaccinated about half the adults in the country twice, now we need to get that up. I heard this morning that at a UK level, a four-week delay gets nine million second doses, so that puts it in perspective.” 

He added: “The longer we can just wait a few weeks, the more second doses we can do.” 

The Clinical Director said efforts were being  made “desperately” to not postpone vaccines for younger people while prioritizing second doses for the over-50s, but there isn’t a “huge block of vaccine” waiting to be administered.  

The strategy has now shifted to an eight-week window between doses, rather than 12, and Prof Leitch urged anyone who has received their ‘blue letter’ appointment to attend and get a second jab, or to attend and open-access clinic.  

He said that this would be the “game-changer” which would allow scientific advisors to say that restrictions could be eased.  

However, he cautioned against that being a sudden decision, and could not say if it would be possible by August. 

HeraldScotland:

Prof Leitch said: “I don’t think it will be ‘suddenly, August’. I think we’ll see, if the momentum continues, we’ll be able to do things between now and then.  

“But I don’t think we’ll be normal by August. There might be moments there where more can open.” 

Ahead of Scotland’s Euro 2020 match against the Czech Republic, Prof Leitch hoped fans would celebrate “safely” if they score or win. 

READ MORE: Vaccines are breaking link between cases and hospitalisations - but Delta variant could overwhelm NHS

He defended the Scottish GOvernment’s decision not to require compulsory tests for fans visiting the Fan Zone in Glasgow, saying that a balance had to be struck.  

Prof Leith said: “It’s not compulsory and there’s a reason for that. The reason for that is behavioral science. Behavioral science tells us that in order to get people to do stuff, you should surround it with the reasons for doing it,and make it easy for people to do it. 

“Mandation is not this magic thing that suddenly happens and everybody will do it. So we think we’ve got the balance about right – we've got a testing bus, we’ve got testing available t everybody, and we’re not going to send tests out to those who have tickets over the next few days.”