Some 60% of positive cases admitted to hospital in two health board areas in Scotland were because of coronavirus, a new analysis shows.
Questions have swirled over the severity of the new Omicron variant, which is believed to make up as much as 90% of all cases in Scotland.
But figures released of a preliminary analysis carried out by Public Health Scotland appear to show a continued threat of hospital admission from the virus.
Taking findings from NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde on January 1 and 2 and NHS Grampian between December 30 and January 4, 126 patients across the two boards were found to have Covid-19.
Of that number, 60 were definitely in hospital because of the virus, while 15 were defined as “probable” – 60% of the total number.
The analysis found that 51 (40%) patients with Covid-19 in hospital were admitted for another reason.
Analysis undertaken last year found that 68% of people in hospitals then were because of Covid-19.
The study also attempted to track the number of people in hospital because of the new variant, but the number of cases where a variant was identified led to the report urging that the numbers should not be “over-interpreted”.
According to the report, 11 of the 14 people with Omicron in the two boards were because of the new variant, while 12 of 26 patients were admitted due to the Delta variant – figures deemed “too small to draw any substantial conclusion”.
The largest age cohort in hospital because of Covid-19 in Grampian between December 30 and January 4 and in Glasgow on January 1 and 2 were those aged between 45 and 64, the analysis showed.
This group made up 32% of the admissions definitely or probably because of the virus, followed by 65-79 (23%), 19-44 (21%), 80 and older (19%) and under the age of 18 (5%).
For those in hospital with Covid-19 but for other reasons, the 19-44 age group was the highest (38%), followed by 45-64 (26%), 65-79 and older than 80 were both on 13%, and under-18s made up 11% of the total.
Age was unknown for six of the admissions with the virus.
The Public Health Scotland report also showed a growing proportion of contact tracing cases in the Test and Protect system were considered “incomplete”, meaning attempts to reach the person who had tested positive had failed or they did not provide details of their contacts.
Incomplete attempts made up 12.4% of all cases in the week ending December 5, rising to 35.8% in the week ending December 26.
Among completed cases in the Test and Protect system, 25.6% took longer than 72 hours.
Looking at the number of lateral flow tests carried out in Scotland, the report said there had been a decrease of 8.9% from the weeks ending December 26 to January 2.
Just under 800,000 lateral flow tests were carried out in Scotland in the week ending January 2.
“The next few weeks are going to be extremely challenging for the NHS on a number of fronts.
“We have the pandemic backlog that has built up, together with high levels of staff absences, again much of that because of Omicron and its higher transmissibility.
“And we are treating over 1,300 people who are in hospital with Covid.”
He said the Government would look to treat more positive cases at home using anti-viral drugs in order to ease pressure on hospitals.
Mr Yousaf repeated advice that unless very urgent or life-threatening, patients should not attend A&E without first calling NHS24 on 111
National Clinical Director Professor Jason Leitch said: “Covid-19 remains a very serious infection, whether it is the primary reason for admission or often also if you are in hospital because of another chronic condition worsened by your Covid infection.
“A failing transplant is much harder to manage if a patient has a positive Covid test for example.
“Patients with positive Covid tests also need special infection and prevention control measures making their care more complex, regardless of the primary cause of their admission.
“I’m grateful to my colleagues in the health and care system for their continued hard work.”
The analysis comes as Scotland recorded 15 coronavirus-linked deaths and 14,486 new cases in the past 24 hours.
The figures published by the Scottish Government on Friday show 78,300 new tests for Covid-19 reported results and 21.7% were positive, down from 23.1% on Thursday.
The newly recorded deaths take the toll under this measurement, of people who tested positive for the virus in the past 28 days, to 9,905.
The figures include a note advising of delays between tests being taken and results being reported but saying Public Health Scotland is monitoring the situation.
There were 1,323 people in hospital on Thursday with recently confirmed Covid-19, up 56 in 24 hours, and 48 were in intensive care, up five.
A total of 4,388,543 people have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccination, 4,037,434 have received a second dose, and 3,063,000 have received a third dose or booster.