SCOTTISH adults who are living with physical or mental health conditions are significantly more anxious about the easing of coronavirus restrictions, a study has found.

In a survey of more than 2,000 people, the Mental Health Foundation found around 61 per cent of those who had long-term physical or mental health problems were “fairly” or “very” anxious about the easing of restrictions.

This compared to 45% of the general population of Scottish adults who said they felt this way.

READ MORE: Paisley woman quits NHS to launch business helping elderly to 'live life to the full'

Susan Solomon, senior research manager at the Mental Health Foundation in Scotland, said: “Since March 2020, our research into the mental health impact of the pandemic has demonstrated that existing inequalities experienced by particular groups of people including those living with long-term physical and mental health conditions, lone parents and young adults, have been exacerbated.

“We know that people who identify within these groups are more likely than the general population to have lived with loneliness, anxiety, hopelessness, stress and, for some, feeling suicidal.”

It comes as the latest figures continue to show an increase in Covid cases in Scotland, with 9,329 infections confirmed over the past seven days – up by 12% compared to the previous week. 

The number of patients in hospital with Covid has fallen to 331, compared to 360 a week ago, with 40 in intensive care. 

More than four million adults in Scotland have now had a first vaccine dose, taking coverage to 90.2%, with 77.4% of adults now fully vaccinated. 

It comes as ministers are being pressed to reveal what contingency plans are in place to deal with a future Covid variant that evades current vaccines, amid warnings from scientific advisers that such an outcome could set the battle against the pandemic back a year or more.

Recent papers produced by the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) have suggested that the arrival of a variant that evades vaccines is a “realistic possibility”.

Dr Marc Baguelin, from Imperial College’s Covid-19 response team and a member of the Government’s SPI-M modelling group, said:“We would most likely be able to update the current vaccines to include the emerging strain.

“But doing so would take months and means that we might need to reimpose restrictions if there were a significant public health risk.”

READ MORE: Covid Scotland: Vaccinating children to protect adults 'won't work'

Eleanor Riley, professor of immunology and infectious disease at Edinburgh University, said it was not yet clear who should be given booster jags despite the rollout being expected to get under way in September. 

She said: “Those people who are most at risk, who’ve always been most at risk, and who got their vaccines right at the beginning of the programme in December last year will probably be at the top of the list for to get a booster, but we actually don’t know if they need one or not. 

“It’s a slightly tricky time because by the time we figure out the people who do need a booster we could be in a winter wave of Covid – probably not a very severe wave, but probably a little bit more virus than there is around at the moment.”

Prof Riley added that she did not believe it made sense to vaccinate all low-risk children and teenagers. 

She said: “It’s quite clear now that the vaccines we have are very very good at preventing people ending up seriously ill in hospital with Covid, but they’re not so good at preventing infection and transmission with the Delta variant of the virus. 

“And so even if we vaccinated everybody in the country, the virus would continue to circulate albeit at lower levels than otherwise, so we have to be very clear about what we are trying to do. 

“The argument that vaccinating children is to protect their teachers, their parents, their grandparents, I think we can probably put that to one side now because we know that even if the kids are vaccinated they are still potentially able to transmit the virus.

“If we want to protect people we have to protect them by vaccinating them but not by relying on somebody else to be vaccinated, so the question then is who really needs a vaccine, and for children under the age of 16 the evidence is that not many of them are going to benefit hugely from being vaccinated in terms of getting sick with Covid.”