NEW figures have laid bare the grim toll Covid-19 is taking on Scotland’s care homes, with 59% of all of last week’s virus linked deaths happening in the sector.
The latest data from the National Records of Scotland (NRS) also revealed that there have now been 2795 coronavirus deaths in total in Scotland.
However, there was some good news with the number of fatalities falling for the first week.
The NRS data reveals that there were 523 deaths between April 27 to May 3, a decrease of 135 from the previous week.
Of those deaths, 59% were in care homes, up from 52% in the previous week. Another 37% were in hospitals, while 4% were at home or non-institutional settings.
Although the percentage has increased, the number of deaths in care homes is down from 339 to 310.
The total number of deaths registered in Scotland from April 27 to May 3 was 1673, which is 594 more than the average number of deaths registered in the same week over the last five years.
Three quarters of Covid-19 deaths were people aged 75 or over. Of all deaths to date involving the virus, 52% were male and 48% were female.
Unlike the Scottish Government’s daily figures, which only include those patients who have tested positive for the disease, the NRS statistics include all deaths where Covid-19 is on the death certificate.
Addressing the Scottish Parliament, Nicola Sturgeon said: “I think it is important to note, this is the first weekly reduction in Covid-19 deaths we’ve seen since the first death related to the virus was registered.”
She added: “I am acutely aware that trends in statistics in no way eases the pain of losing a loved one. But in the broader fight against this virus, this week’s figures do give us some hope.
“The number of deaths has reduced overall, as have excess deaths, and the deaths related to the virus, both in general and in care homes.”
The First Minister also updated MSPs on the latest government figures, telling them that there were now 12,709 positive cases confirmed in Scotland, an increase of 272 on the previous day. Of those who have been tested, 83 have died, taking the total number of deaths in Scotland under that measurement to 1703.
Another 1632 patients are currently in hospital with confirmed or suspected cases of Covid-19, a decrease of 24 from the day before. 89 of them were in intensive care.
During First Minister’s Questions, Labour MSP Neil Findlay pleaded with Sturgeon to stop allowing patients to be discharged from hospitals to care homes.
In an emotional and personal exchange, the SNP leader was near tears when she asked the Labour backbencher not to suggest that the Government didn’t care or wasn’t trying to “do the right thing”.
In his question, Findlay said: “My mum, like thousands of our loved ones, is in a care home.
“We now have the worst death rates in Europe, and care homes are the epicentre of the crisis.
“59% of deaths are occurring in care homes as has been announced today.
“Can I therefore ask why on earth we are continuing to discharge patients from hospital to care homes, without establishing whether or not they are positive for Covid-19? I am not one that ever pleads with the First Minister, but I will now.
“Please stop this practice now to save the lives of residents and the great people who look after my mum.”
Sturgeon responded: “Can I say to Neil Findlay, every single one of us is deeply, deeply concerned and moved by what’s happening in our care homes, and that is particularly the case for people like him who have relatives in care homes, but I don’t think there is a single one of us who does not think this a deeply and profoundly upsetting situation, so please do not ask these questions in a way that suggests that we are not all trying to do everything we possibly can to do the right thing.”
All hospital patients heading to care homes needed to be tested 48 hours before they were due for discharge, and in some cases would be isolated for 14 days. “The priority is to prevent infection getting into a care home,” she said.