THE current surge in Covid infections could rise to more than 20,000 new cases every day, putting further pressure on the NHS in the coming two weeks as students return to Scotland’s universities, according to official warnings.

Modelling published by the Scottish Government estimated that a level of 20,000 new cases a day would lead to around 2000 patients with Covid in hospital by October 3 – around double the current number.

The report said that the Scottish Government assesses the impact of Covid-19 on the NHS in terms of estimated number of infections.

It pointed to one model, which it said was the worst case, which was based on infections not dropping and that a recent fall in recorded cases was because not all cases had been detected. A “central” model assumed a larger impact from the return of university students, while a “better” model assumed falling cases and a smaller consequence of students returning to campus.

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A graph on medium term projections of modelled total new daily infections, which adjusted positive tests to account for asymptomatic and undetected infections based on positive test data reported up to September 13, gave a range of estimates for new daily infections.

In the worst case, the range of new daily infections was from around 23,000 to around 44,000. The better range estimated new daily infections from 7000 to 23,000 while the better course was from around 3000 to 7000.

The modelling then projected what these daily infection figures could mean in terms of people having to go to hospital with Covid with up to around 3500 hospital cases in the worst scenario, almost 2000 in the central and up to 1200 under the most optimistic projection.

The report comes amid increasing pressures on the NHS and the country’s ambulance service.

The National: First Minister Nicola Sturgeon Picture: Gordon Terris

Nicola Sturgeon told Holyrood on Thursday – the day the modelling report was published – that the NHS was facing the worst winter in current lifetimes as she revealed that the Scottish Government was requesting help from the military to help the under-pressure ambulance service.

The announcement came after reports that a 65-year-old man in Glasgow had died after waiting 40 hours for an ambulance following a collapse at his home.

A separate media report told how another pensioner was left waiting eight hours for an ambulance after falling and breaking her hip.

Speaking to MSPs, the First Minister – who will update Holyrood on Tuesday on the pandemic – said a range of actions, including a recruitment drive, were underway to help alleviate the situation.

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“I am very clear in my mind that it is not acceptable for one person, let alone more than that, to wait anything like the times that some people are experiencing right now. That is why we are taking the actions that we are taking. There are, right now, over 1000 people in our hospitals with Covid. That puts an additional pressure on our hospitals, and that feeds through into longer turnaround times for ambulances,” she said. “Because of the pandemic and all that it creates, we are facing probably the most challenging winter for the health service and for society in any of our lifetimes.”

According to the latest figures published yesterday, Scotland recorded another 5529 Covid cases and 30 new deaths. There were 1037 people in hospital on Thursday with recently confirmed coronavirus and 87 of those were in intensive care.

Scotland moved to the lowest level of restrictions on July 19 and lifted most of the remaining curbs on August 9. Since then, there has been a surge in cases.

A spokesman for Universities Scotland pointed to a recent fall in the rate of infection among the 18-29 age group and said there was “no complacency within universities”.

He added: “Universities have planned a cautious return to campus, going beyond what’s required in Scotland’s current status of beyond Level 0 and ensuring a number of mitigations are in place for in-person teaching and other aspects of student life. Universities are also ensuring vaccination and regular testing is easily accessible to students and early reports are that the take-up has been strong.

“The overwhelming majority of students have exhibited exemplary behaviour and selflessness since the outbreak of pandemic and we have faith this will continue to be the case.”