THE number of intensive care unit beds in Scotland is set to rise to 500 next week, with the Scottish Government expecting a steep influx in the number of people suffering from coronavirus.

Updating MSPs in Holyrood, Nicola Sturgeon said there were now 147 patients with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 in intensive care units (ICUs), up from 51 a week ago.

ICU capacity across Scotland has already doubled to 360 beds, 250 of which will be for the exclusive use of coronavirus patients.

Eventually the government aims to have more than 700 ICU beds.

The latest figures show that 2310 people in Scotland have tested positive for the disease, an increase of 317 in 24 hours.

Sadly, there were also another 16 deaths, bringing the total to 76.

Across, the UK, a total of 2352 people with coronavirus have died, 563 more than in the previous day.

The First Minister was probed on tests. Currently, about 1900 are being carried out in Scotland every day, up from 750 a day two weeks ago.

Ministers want to increase that to 3500 tests every day before the end of this month.

Sturgeon told MSPs: “We are now at the stage of this epidemic, as we expected to be, when the number of cases is rising rapidly and unfortunately that means that the numbers becoming seriously unwell and dying are also, sadly, rising.

“We hope that the lockdown measures we are asking people to comply with will have a marked effect on the spread of the virus, and that we will see a slowdown in the next few weeks.

“However, given that these measures take some time to have an impact, it is too early to draw any firm conclusions yet and we must continue to plan for what will be a considerable impact on the National Health Service and on wider society.”

Sturgeon said ventilators had been ordered “from a range of manufacturers”, with many due to be delivered in the coming weeks.

She said: “The Scottish Government has a number of orders in for ventilators with existing ventilator manufacturers, mainly from overseas.

“Assuming that those orders stay on track, they will be delivered over the next number of weeks or – and I can provide the information in more detail – by the summer.

“That will take us to slightly more than 1000 ventilators.”

The NHS would also, she said, participate in the UK-wide procurement, which seeks to have 8000 ventilators shared between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in the next few weeks.

In the meantime NHS boards have been working to repurpose 200 operating theatre anaesthetic machines for use as ventilators to “bridge any gap”.

Meanwhile, about 34 million items of personal protective equipment (PPE) have been delivered to hospitals in the past four to six weeks, the First Minister said.

A total of eight million items are being sent out to GPs and care workers this week. While there are currently “reasonably good supplies of all key items at this stage”, this could change in the future as demand continues to rise.

Scotland is in lockdown. Shops are closing and newspaper sales are falling fast. It’s no exaggeration to say that the future of The National is at stake. Please consider supporting us through this with a digital subscription from just £2 for 2 months by following this link: Thanks – and stay safe.