Almost a quarter of all care homes in Scotland now have Covid cases, according to the latest figures, with sector leaders warning of a real “threat to life”.

Infections amongst elderly residents have tripled, going from 241 in the week up until Boxing Day to 612 on January 2.

A total of 251 homes reported infections in the week up to January 5, compared with 86 a fortnight ago.

It comes as new data showed six in ten Covid patients admitted to hospital in December and January were there “because of” rather than ‘with’ the infection and the majority were in the older age bracket.

The report by Public Health Scotland, which is based on an analysis of patient records at Greater Glasgow and Clyde and Grampian health boards, found those over the age of 65 were “disproportionately” affected.

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Donald MacAskill, Chief Executive of Scottish Care, said anecdotal evidence suggested the majority of care home residents were experiencing “mild or moderate” illness.

However, he said staff shortages would make the management of Covid infections challenging, even if not severe.

The most recent data shows cases amongst care home workers have more than doubled to 1098, from 476.

HeraldScotland:

Mr MacAskill said: “There has been a significant rise in the number of infections, mainly of staff but increasingly of residents. This sadly was to have been expected with the Omicron infectivity levels.

“Anecdotally what we are seeing is a relatively mild or moderate form of infection for residents and this is largely being managed in the homes. 

“However, at times of real staff shortage even managing someone with a mild or moderate response is time and staff intensive not least due to isolation requirements. 

“When there are many so affected the challenge increases.

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“What is often a mild response for some in the general population, for a group with poorer immune system response and often a population with multiple medical conditions there are very real threats to life.”

HC-One which runs around 329 care homes across the UK, said it had had less than five hospital admissions in Scotland since the Omicron wave started.

A spokesman added: “At the moment, the vast majority of residents who are testing positive are remaining in our homes as they have either mild symptoms (like a cold) or are asymptomatic.”

Barchester said 0.2% of residents in Scotland were currently in hospital.

Mr MacAskill said it is still too early to say how Omicron will affect the vulnerable care home population.

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He said: “We know that  following patterns elsewhere and in previous waves there is a time lag between infection, hospitalisation, and ICU admittance.

“It is sadly still too early to say what the course of the Omicron strain will be for older people in care homes though evidence from elsewhere gives grounds for hope.”