The number of people in Scottish hospitals with Covid is at its highest for 13 months, new figures have shown.
On Wednesday, there were 1,636 people in hospital with recently-confirmed Covid-19, up 127 on the previous day.
That is higher than the Omicron peak of 1,571 which was recorded in January this year.
Health boards say that while far fewer people need intensive care, large numbers of Covid patients are affecting available beds and other services.
There are more patients in hospital than at any time since 8 February 2021, when the total was 1,672. In January, 2021 hospital numbers peaked at 2,053.
The latest Covid figures from the Scottish government show that more than 14,000 people have tested positive in the last 24 hours. That is the highest daily case rate since 8 January.
Scotland has recorded 41 coronavirus-linked deaths in the last 24 hours – more than double the total of 18 from the previous day.
Jillian Evans, head of health intelligence at NHS Grampian, said it was a difficult situation to manage in hospitals.
She told BBC Scotland’s Drivetime programme : “It is quite a rise in new cases. We are also seeing the impact on hospitals and it is quite marked actually.
“The last few days, we’ve seen quite big step changes every day. I know from my own board – I’ve just come from a meeting where we’ve been talking about flow of patients, pressure on beds, and I know how difficult it is to manage that in a system that’s operating with very, very little headroom anyway.
“And then you have what feels like a continued surge of admissions or people in hospital with Covid so it’s a difficult one to manage but we are living with this at the moment.”
She said the threat risk was still “fairly elevated”, given the trajectory of new cases, and the fact the latest ONS infection survey showed a fifth consecutive rise.
Ms Evans said the number of people in hospital had risen from 872 four weeks ago to 1,636 now, adding that the number of patients being admitted to hospital were older or more vulnerable people.
She said the rise could be partly due to the waning effectiveness of the Covid vaccine and welcomed the booster top-up programme that was now starting for most vulnerable groups.
“The only thing we can do right now is to continue doing what we’ve done really well,” she said. “Keep wearing those masks even though those legal protections might be lifted. And most importantly, be vigilant to symptoms. If you think it’s a cold, it’s probably Covid and stay away from other people.”
Scotland’s largest health board, Greater Glasgow and Clyde said hospitals were near capacity with more than 550 Covid-19 patients.
In Lanarkshire, numbers have gone from 66 in the middle of last month to 162 across its three main hospitals.
The majority of Covid patients do not need intensive care treatment but the high volume of patients mean people wait longer than they should in emergency departments for beds to become available.
A number of health boards have also had to limit or cancel routine operations and change visiting arrangements.
Staff absences have been improving but continue to cause some disruption.
In Orkney, there are currently 2,375 cases per 100,000 – more than double the UK level. BBC Scotland’s Rob Flett said it had taken 21 months to get to 1,000 infections, two months to get to 2,000 infections and just a month to get to 4,000 infections.
“It’s spreading like wildfire through here,” he said, adding that lots of schools were returning to home learning, with 62 teachers off at the beginning of the week.
He said that while there was no increase in significant and serious illness but it was having a “massive impact” on services on the islands.
Numbers are also high in Shetland and in the Western Isles.
Of the 1,636 people in hospital with recently confirmed Covid-19, 22 were in intensive care, a rise of three from the previous day.
The 41 deaths recorded on Thursday, up from 18 on Wednesday, mean the number of people who have died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 has risen to 10,947.
On Wednesday, Health Secretary, Humza Yousaf, said that recently rising Covid-19 case numbers were “concerning and a reminder that Covid is still with us” and urged people to get their vaccinations.
So far, 4,439,451 people have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccination, 4,165,704 have received their second dose, and 3,459,127 have received a third dose or booster.
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