Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: Deputy First Minister's speech 30 October 2020

Statement given by Deputy First Minister John Swinney at a media briefing in St Andrew's House, Edinburgh on Friday 30 October 2020.

Good afternoon, and thanks for joining us. I want to start with the usual daily report on the COVID statistics.

The total number of positive cases reported yesterday was 1,281.

This represents 6% of the total number of tests.

496 of the new cases were in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 258 in Lanarkshire, 194 in Lothian and 89 in Tayside. 

The remaining 244 cases were spread across 7 other health board regions. 

The total number of confirmed cases in Scotland is now 62,812.

I can also confirm that 1,170 people are in hospital – that is an increase of 18 from yesterday.

83 people are in intensive care, which is 3 less than yesterday.

And I regret to say that in the last 24 hours, 28 deaths have been registered of a patient who first tested positive over the previous 28 days. 

That takes the total number of deaths, under this measurement, to 2,819.

That figure reminds us again of the devastating impact that Covid has had, and continues to have. I want to send my deepest condolences to all those who are currently grieving a loved one as a consequence of this pandemic.

I am joined by the Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop, and the National Clinical Director Jason Leitch.  In a moment, Fiona will say a few words about the close of the current furlough scheme – and the new support that will replace it.  

The main update I want to provide today is about new guidance relating to schools and childcare.  I’ll then say a few words about Halloween. 

Before that though I want to quickly draw your attention to an announcement that was made last night.

The Scottish Government has added two additional countries to the list of those that are subject to quarantine restrictions.  Those countries are Cyprus and Lithuania.

It means that from 4am on Sunday, people travelling to Scotland from these places must self-isolate for 14 days, upon their return.

This is a further reminder of how quickly levels of the virus – in any country or area – can change. And it underlines why we are continuing to advise against any non-essential overseas travel right now.

Let me turn now to the main update for today.

As the Scottish Government was preparing our strategic framework – which was launched this time last week -  we commissioned a piece of work from our scientific sub group on education and children’s issues. We asked them for updated advice on safety within schools and childcare.  

Keeping schools and childcare open is one of our top priorities.

I understand that that is frustrating for other sectors who are having to close temporarily, or who face restrictions.

I want to be pretty straightforward about the choice we have made here.

Bluntly, if we are to successfully suppress the virus and save lives, we cannot open up every sector and keep our schools open at the same time.

That is the hard choice we face and we have chosen to put schools and childcare first.

We have done that because we know closing schools increases inequality, and potentially causes long-term harm to children. And we are determined to avoid doing that.

But we also know – because we all saw this happen in March – that closing schools and childcare also closes massive parts of the economy. The two things are intrinsically linked.

So based on our expert group’s advice – and also the recommendations of our Education Recovery Group - we are today publishing updated guidance for schools and childcare. 

The guidance is designed to ensure that these schools and childcare settings are as safe as possible – for children, teachers, child care providers, and other staff. That is a fundamental and absolute requirement for the Scottish Government. 

There have been tremendous efforts already applied by staff and pupils already to ensure this is the case and I thank them all for their efforts.

The guidance builds on their efforts and is informed by the latest scientific evidence – as well as people’s real-life experiences, since schools and childcare returned.  And it takes account of the strategic framework – and the new levels it sets out.

Now, there are a number of changes to the guidance, and I don’t intend to go into the detail of each and every one of them. But there are a few points that I think it is important to highlight.

First, the guidance includes new advice for adults and children in the shielding category.  We hope it will further ensure that they can stay safe.

There are also a number of changes relating to face coverings in schools.

Previously, our advice was that adults should wear face coverings in schools, if they were in contact with other adults or pupils for a sustained period of time. We are now advising that face coverings should be worn wherever an adult cannot keep a 2 metre distance from other adults and pupils. 

That applies at all levels – although there are some exemptions in relation to primaries 1 and 2. Careful consideration should also be given to hearing impaired pupils, and children with additional support needs.

Adults in primary schools should now wear face coverings in communal areas of the building – such as staff rooms, canteens and corridors. Previously this advice applied only to secondary schools.

And face coverings should be worn by parents and other visitors to schools – even if they’re not entering the building.  That includes - for example – when people are picking up or dropping off their children.

Finally, in areas where Level 3 or Level 4 applies, secondary pupils in years 4 to 6, and their teachers, should wear face coverings in classrooms.

I realise that this recommendation, in particular, is a change from previous advice. However the evidence suggests there are slightly higher infection and transmission risks for people around the age of 16 to 17.  So the use of face coverings is an additional precautionary measure, in areas where there is increased incidence of the virus.

None of the levels in the framework require any automatic move to school closures or blended learning. Any decision of that nature will be based on local dialogue and public health advice. However, the guidance makes clear that remote learning remains an important contingency, should that be required.

The updated guidance documents can be found on the Scottish Government’s website. We’ve also published the updated scientific advice on which they are based.

As always, we will keep the impact of these measures under careful and close review, and update guidance if there is a need for us to do so.

The guidance will apply from Monday – when the new levels come into effect. We recognise it will take time for all of the measures to be implemented.  But we will work closely with schools, childcare settings, local authorities and trade unions – to ensure that can happen as quickly as possible.

I want to take the opportunity – again today – to thank teachers, school leadership teams, childcare providers and other staff – for their efforts over the past few months.  I also want to thank children and young people, and their parents. 

I appreciate how tough things have been. And I know that it won’t be easy to adapt to further changes. 

However, we believe these additional measures are important. They will help to ensure the safety of everyone in schools and childcare settings. And in doing so, they will contribute to our broader aim – of stemming the current resurgence of the virus.

The final issue I want to talk about today relates to the weekend ahead, and specifically, Halloween.

In ordinary circumstances, families across Scotland would be out guising tomorrow night. And people of all ages would be attending Halloween parties.

Sadly, these are not ordinary circumstances.

None of us at the moment should be visiting each other’s homes, unless it’s for an essential purpose. And we should all be avoiding activities which make the spread of the virus more likely.

I’m afraid that guising falls into that category. 

Going door to door, passing sweets, touching items others have touched – all of that gives Covid the opportunity to spread.  And if there’s one thing we know, it’s that this virus will take any opportunity it can get to spread. 

So this Halloween, our advice is that you should stay at home.

That does not mean – of course – that families can’t have fun.  Children and adults can still dress up and play games.   And we can still all celebrate Halloween. We just need to do that in the safety of our own homes. 

That’s certainly what my family will be doing. My son is already practising some fantastic impersonations, and he’s really looking forward to getting dressed up.

It won’t be the same as other years – but we’re still going to try to make it a very special night in our house.

The Parent Club website has lots of great tips for having a fun Halloween. So if you’re looking for ideas, it’s worth going to

None of us like the fact that these restrictions have to be in place. But sticking to them is really important. It will help us all to keep safe.

So please, stay at home this Halloween. Don’t take risks for the sake of one night – it’s really not worth it.

To close, I want to remind you of the general rules and guidelines.

If you live in Lothian, Lanarkshire, Forth Valley, Ayrshire and Arran and Greater Glasgow and Clyde, you should not travel outside those areas unless you have a clear need to do. Essentially these areas are in Level 3 right now – and they will remain so, when the new levels come into effect on Monday.

At that point, Dundee will also enter Level 3.  So ahead of that change, I would encourage people in Dundee - and neighbouring areas – to be extra cautious this weekend. Don’t take unnecessary risks.

Of course, none of us – anywhere in Scotland – should be visiting each other’s homes right now, except for very specific purposes – such as childcare, or caring for an older person.

And when we do meet people from other households - outdoors, or at a café - the maximum group size is 6, from a maximum of two households.

In addition, avoid car-sharing unless it is absolutely essential.

Work from home if you can.

Download the Protect Scotland app, if you haven’t already done so.

And finally, remember the FACTS – the five rules which will help to remind you how to do the right thing.

  • Face coverings
  • Avoid crowded places
  • Clean hands and hard surfaces
  • keep Two metres away from other households.
  • and Self isolate, and book a test, if you have symptoms

By following these rules, we can all help to keep the virus under control.

We can protect ourselves and our communities.

We can support our NHS. And we can save lives.

So thank you once again to everyone who is doing that.


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