COP26: Humza Yousaf admits risk of Covid-19 spike following summit

Humza Yousaf has admitted there is a risk of a spike in Covid-19 infections following the COP26 summit, and declined to rule out further restrictions amid growing fears of a winter surge in cases.

Health secretary Humza Yousaf said the government is not actively considering new Covid-19 restictions, but refused to rule such measures out.

The health secretary also said he “completely rejected” accusations the Scottish Government’s booster programme was “sluggish,” despite the fact more than 400,000 people eligible for the jag have yet to receive it.

It comes as an increasing number of health boards have requested military assistance to deal with the growing crisis facing the NHS, although Mr Yousaf dismissed reports that every health board has done so.

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Speaking on BBC One Scotland’s The Sunday Show, Mr Yousaf accepted the coming climate change summit in Glasgow would result in a rise in the number of positive Covid-19 cases.

Professor Devi Sridhar, a global public health professor at the University of Edinburgh and a member of the government’s Covid-19 advisory group, warned last week the event would “put stress on limited health services” and trigger the need for further restrictions.

Up to 25,000 delegates are set to arrive in Glasgow for the conference over the next week, with hundreds of thousands of people expected to take part in large-scale protests surrounding the gathering.

Mr Yousaf said the government expected there to be positive cases that are linked to COP26, but that it was “very, very assured” by the protocols in place, which include daily testing in the summit’s tightly secured blue zone.

He said: “We’ll do everything in our power to keep it to a minimum, but there’s no public health expert anywhere in the world who’d say there’s no risk in the midst of a pandemic to have tens of thousands of people descending largely on to one city.

“There is absolutely a risk of Covid cases rising thereafter and we will do everything we can to try and mitigate that.”

On whether restrictions would be necessary over Christmas, Mr Yousaf said: “If there’s one thing I have learnt about this virus, it’s that anybody suggesting we have a crystal ball would be foolish.”

He added: “We are not actively considering restrictions … I am concerned that we are going to have an incredibly challenging winter, we are going to have one of the most difficult winters.

“What are we trying our best to do, through the mitigation measures, is not to go back into restrictions, because we know the harm they have on people’s health, mental health, as well as of course wider society and the economy.”