Good afternoon, and thanks for joining us.
I’ll start with the usual update on the most recent Covid-19 statistics for Scotland.
I can confirm that an additional 43 positive cases were confirmed yesterday. That represents 0.9% of the people who were newly tested yesterday, and it takes the total number of cases in Scotland to 18,890
A full health board breakdown will be available later, but the provisional information I have is that 27 of the 43 cases are in the Grampian health board area.
It is not yet clear how many are connected to the ongoing outbreak in Aberdeen and I will say a little bit more about the situation there shortly.
A further 5 cases appear to be in the Greater Glasgow & Clyde area, which is a reduction in the numbers we have seen there in recent days.
A total of 262 patients are currently in hospital with confirmed Covid-19, which is 8 fewer than yesterday.
A total of 4 people are in intensive care with confirmed Covid-19. That is the same as yesterday.
I’m also pleased to say that, in the past 24 hours, yet again no deaths were registered of patients who had tested positive for Covid-19 over the previous 28 days and therefore the number of deaths under that measurement remains 2,491.
Obviously the total number of deaths is still a sharp reminder of the dreadful impact of this virus and my condolences once again go to everyone who has suffered loss.
As always, I also want to thank everyone working hard to help our country through this pandemic.
The main points I want to cover today are the outbreak in Aberdeen, but I also want to say something about further measures that we’re going to take to reduce the risk of transmission.
The Economy Secretary will then say a few words about business support.
And the Chief Medical Officer will give an update on this year’s seasonal flu vaccination programme.
Before all that, though, I want to draw your attention to an important announcement made last night.
The Scottish Government has taken the decision to add three additional countries to the list of those that are subject to quarantine restrictions. Those countries are Belgium, Andorra and the Bahamas.
Each of these countries has seen a significant rise in Covid cases, over recent days.
So from tomorrow, people travelling to Scotland from those countries must self-isolate for 14 days.
This is another reminder of how quickly the international situation can change. And it’s why I would once again remind everyone to think very carefully about booking non-essential foreign travel.
Let me return now to the situation we’re dealing with in Aberdeen
I can confirm that – as of now – a total of 101 cases have been confirmed as part of that cluster. That is an increase of 22 on the position reported yesterday.
And a total of 313 close contacts have now been identified and are being followed up – although we expect that number to rise further.
It was also confirmed yesterday that two players from Aberdeen Football Club are among those who have tested positive.
In addition, a further six players have been identified as having been in close proximity with one of those individuals and they are all therefore self isolating.
It is now clear that all eight players visited a bar in Aberdeen on Saturday night.
In doing so, they blatantly broke the rules that had been agreed, between the SFA, the SPFL and the Scottish Government which, to put it mildly, is completely unacceptable.
This morning, the Scottish Government convened a meeting with the SFA and the SPFL. And following those discussions, the football authorities have confirmed that the game against St Johnston – scheduled for tomorrow in Perth – will not now go ahead.
I think that is the right decision. We are expecting members of the public to behave in a highly precautionary manner right now.
When a football club ends up with players infected - and not through bad luck, but through clear breaches of the rules - we cannot take even a small risk that they then spread the infection to other parts of the country.
The Scottish Government will also be contacting all club captains and managers to emphasise the importance of complying with the guidance.
Let me emphasise that directly now.
Football has been given the go ahead on the strict condition that clubs and players abide by the guidance that has been agreed.
If they don’t do that, they put at risk the return of the professional game.
So I welcome Aberdeen’s statement that they have reminded players of their obligations. That’s important - footballers are role models and they should behave accordingly.
But it’s also important to remind the club - and indeed all clubs - of the obligation they have to ensure that their players are behaving responsibly and in line with the guidance.
Now, to say that this incident is deeply regrettable is an understatement.
But it underlines an extremely important point.
Any time one of us fails to abide by the rules, we put others at risk. And we give this virus the chance to come roaring back.
That’s something we can’t afford to do. We’ve seen – every day of this outbreak – how easily Covid can spread. So we do need to do everything we can to stop it in its tracks.
That’s why we have taken such decisive action in Aberdeen. The new restrictions are designed to minimize the risk of transmission – as we get the bottom of this incident.
These measures are tough – but they are necessary – especially at a time when schools are about to return.
So I want to thank the people of Aberdeen for your understanding – and for doing the right thing. It is hugely appreciated.
The situation in Aberdeen is extremely challenging. And our focus is on getting it under control.
At the same time, we want to learn the lessons of this outbreak. We have seen similar outbreaks in countries around the world. And it’s clear that a common factor in many of them is a link to hospitality.
We’ve always known that settings such as pubs and bars are particularly susceptible to the spread of this virus. That’s why we held back the reopening of hospitality until a later phase. It’s also why we staggered the reopening of hospitality – with outdoor venues opening first.
We’ve also got clear guidance for the hospitality sector, on how it could operate safely. Among other things, the guidance set out important advice on things like physical distancing, cleaning and hygiene arrangements, and the collection of customer details.
Now, it’s very clear many businesses have complied very strictly with those kinds of measures, and I’ve very grateful to them for that. However, we also know there are some where that has not been the case.
The Scottish Government is determined to do everything we can to prevent further outbreaks. And we want to ensure that our hospitality sector can continue to remain open.
That’s why today I’m announcing two further measures.
The first is that we now intend to make it mandatory for a range of settings, including hospitality businesses, to collect customer details.
That requirement already exists in guidance, but we are now placing it on a statutory footing. And it should help to ensure that our Test and Protect system can function as effectively as possible.
Second, we intend to issue new statutory guidance relating to indoor hospitality. We’ll set out more detail on this next week, but the aim is to ensure greater compliance with some of the key public health measures – such as physical distancing. And we will work closely with Police Scotland and local environmental health teams to explain these measures – and if necessary, enforce compliance.
Both these changes will take affect from next Friday. And they will help to clarify exactly what is required of the hospitality industry.
However, I want to be emphasise that businesses should already be doing these things. So if you’re not – don’t wait till next week, start complying now.
Premises should be collecting and keeping contact details.
Wherever possible, people should pre-book tables in advance. And there should be no queueing.
People should be seated, with table service.
Customers should not be standing together to watch football, dancing, or queuing at the bar.
There should be no queueing outside either. If it is unavoidable for any reason, those in queues should be physically distanced.
And there should be no background music – or volume from the TV. We don’t want people having to shout or lean in to each other in order to be heard.
Our hospitality businesses obviously have a vital role to play in making premises safe.
But as I said yesterday, we are all the first line of defence against this virus. So please think about your own actions.
No more than three households should be meeting together in places like bars and restaurants at any one time. People from different households should be staying physically distant from each other at all times.
The final update I want to cover today concerns the use of face coverings.
At the moment, the use of face coverings is mandatory in shops and on public transport. And we are very satisfied that the vast majority of people are complying with those requirements, and I want to thank the public for that.
When it comes to other enclosed spaces, we currently advise people to wear face coverings. But we have not made it mandatory.
However, as come further out of lockdown, the risks are. More people are out and about. More places have reopened. And more people are gathering together.
So as a precautionary measure, I am announcing today that we are expanding the range of indoor premises where people must wear a face covering. From tomorrow, that list will include venues like libraries, museums, and places of worship. You’ll be able to find more detail on exactly which kinds of premises are covered, on the Scottish Government website.
I can also confirm today that we are updating our guidance on face visors. Based on the latest scientific evidence, we are not convinced that a face visor on its own provides sufficient protection – to the wearer or to others. So again from tomorrow, if a visor is worn it must be accompanied by another type of face covering.
These changes will help to reduce some of the risks that people face, and they are not any of them being made lightly. However, it’s important to remember that face coverings are just one additional form of protection. We still must observe all of the other public health guidelines.
So to close today, as usual I want to remind you – once again - of the FACTS, the five rules that we all must follow to stay safe.
- Face coverings in enclosed spaces
- Avoid crowded places.
- Clean your hands and hard surfaces regularly.
- Two metre distancing remains the overall rule.
- and self isolate, and book a test, if you have symptoms.
If we all comply with these five golden rules then we reduce the risk of this virus spreading and taking hold of us again, so my thanks to everyone who is complying and, as always, my encouragement to those who may need to take greater care in doing so.
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