- 5 Apr 2020
Good afternoon everyone.
I want to provide you with a further update on Scotland’s response to the Covid-19 epidemic.
First, I can confirm that, as at 9 o’clock this morning, there have been 3706 positive cases confirmed - an increase of 361 from yesterday’s figures.
As always, let me be clear that these numbers will be an underestimate.
A total of 197 people last night were in intensive care with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19. That is an increase of five on yesterday. A total of 1,590 patients are in hospital with COVID-19 - that is an increase of 110 from yesterday.
Today there have been two reported deaths of COVID-19 – that takes the total number of deaths in Scotland to 220.
However, that figure should not be taken as being truly representative of developments this weekend.
As you will recall, on Thursday I explained that we were changing the way information on deaths is verified before being. The new system uses information validated by the National Registers of Scotland, and based on the registration of deaths.
Work is underway this weekend to move the NRS system to a seven-day a week operation, and emergency legislation has changed the regulations to help registrars meet this additional need - allowing the death notification process that previously happened face to face, to happen electronically and over the phone.
However, the NRS system is not yet up and running seven days a week. As a result, the figure I have reported today, and the figure I will report tomorrow, is likely to be artificially low – though of course, each one matters and is a source of sadness to family and friends but also to me.
These figures will be reconciled on Tuesday and Wednesday and I expect they will continue to increase from the 46 deaths reported yesterday.
As I set out last week, further information on deaths - including those in the community where COVID-19 is a presumed cause of death - will be published by National Registers of Scotland this week. And we will provide the media with a full briefing in the coming days on the recording and reporting of deaths.
I want once again to thank everyone who works in our health and care sector. Your efforts are, as always, hugely appreciated.
I always include the care sector in that thank-you, and this weekend there is a very good reason for doing so.
I can confirm that the provider of the Burlington Care Home has notified the Care Inspectorate of 16 deaths over the period 27 March to today. 12 of those were displaying symptoms consistent with COVID-19 and my thoughts are with the families of all of them. This has, of course, brought home this weekend that staff in the care sector are doing a very demanding job in very stressful circumstances. I am grateful to each and every one of them for the work that they do.
We remain in close contact with Burlington Care Home, through the Care Inspectorate, about the situation there. The home currently has sufficient staff cover and it has adequate supplies of personal protective equipment.
More broadly, we are in close contact with the Care Inspectorate to understand how COVID-19 is affecting the delivery of care across Scotland.
The NSS Social Care call line – which helps care service providers with urgent equipment needs - has been running for two weeks. In that time, more than six million pieces of personal protective equipment have been delivered to more than 1000 care homes and other locations across Scotland.
Our care services - the staff and the residents of care homes - are as important to us as those working in or being treated in our hospitals. And we will do everything we can to ensure they always have the equipment and treatment that they need.
There are two other updates I want to give this afternoon.
The first is that the Scottish Government is making £30 million available to local authorities, so that they can help people who are struggling to get the food they need.
We know that for some families – for example, ones where the children usually get free school meals – this pandemic is making it harder for them to feed themselves and their families. This funding is intended to help councils to help them.
Councils can use the funding flexibly, in order to meet local needs and circumstances.
For example, they will be able to work with community groups and businesses to support home delivery, provide financial help and help people eat a balanced and healthy diet.
COVID-19 is, above all else, a public health emergency. However, the steps we need to take to address that emergency have a range of other consequences. We are determined to take action to address those consequences, and to help those most in need.
The final point I want to update you on is the response to our efforts to increase health service capacity, by encouraging people with the relevant qualifications to join or rejoin the workforce.
However I can confirm that so far, almost 10,000 people have come forward to offer to help.
They include medical and nursing students, retired NHS staff, those on a career break, and healthcare workers from outside the NHS.
We are looking to fast-track processes such as disclosure checks, so that many of these applicants can join the workforce as soon as is practical.
They will play a vitally important role – either by helping to treat patients with COVID-19, or by working in other areas, and therefore increasing the NHS’s overall capacity. I want to thank each and every one of them.
Finally I want to address an issue, which I know the Chief Medical Officer will speak to herself shortly.
The Chief Medical Officer made a mistake in travelling away from her home. Whatever her reasons for doing so, she was wrong and she knows that.
It was not in line with the advice we are asking everyone to follow. She has apologised unreservedly to me and to the public and she is right to have done so. I would like to say this. I have said this from this podium before, that all of us, including me, will make mistakes in these unprecedented times we are living in. When we do, we must candid about it and learn from it.
That is what I know the Chief Medical Officer is doing in making abundantly clear that she was wrong. We will underline the reasons why we are asking everyone to comply with this advice.
But what I also know is that over these past few weeks as we have been dealing with this crisis, her advice and expertise has been invaluable to me and it continues to be so.
If I am to do what I need to do, to steer the country through this crisis to the very best of my ability, I need her to be able to focus on the job she is doing. A job that, notwithstanding her mistake on this, she is doing extremely well.
So I’m not expecting you not to be angry about this mistake, and nor is she, but I am asking you to consider the wider importance to the Government and by extension the country to be able to count on the continued expertise of the Chief Medical Officer at this critical time as we fight this virus.
It remains the case that for all of us, the best way of showing solidarity and support is by sticking to social distancing guidelines. We all know what they are and we are all being reminded of them today.
But as the virus spreads, I want to take the opportunity today to remind people of the specific restrictions if you get ill.
If you think you have coronavirus, please do not leave the house for seven days from when you first get symptoms and if you share a house with someone who has symptoms, you and your household should all stay at home for 14 days without going out at all, even for the essential purposes that we are advising others are permissible.
By staying away from each other and not meeting up with other households, you’re doing the right thing. You’re all helping to slow the spread of the infection.You’re giving the NHS a chance to cope and you are saving lives. So my thanks once again to everyone who is helping to do that.
And of course it remains the case that for all of us, the best way of showing solidarity and support is by sticking to social distancing guidelines.
We all know what they are – but I want to take the opportunity today to remind people of the specific restrictions if you get ill.
If you think you have Coronovirus, please do not leave the house for seven days from when you first get symptoms.
And if you share a house with someone who has symptoms, you and your household, should all stay at home for 14 days, without going out at all.
By staying away from each other, and by not meeting up with other households, you are doing the right thing.
You are slowing the spread of the infection, you are giving the NHS a chance to cope, and you are saving lives. So thank you once again for everyone who is helping to do that