Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: Deputy First Minister's speech - 4 December 2020

Statement given by Deputy First Minister John Swinney at a media briefing in St Andrew's House, Edinburgh, on Friday 4 December 2020.

Thanks for joining us again today.

I will start with the usual update on today’s statistics.

The total number of positive cases reported yesterday was 966.

That represents 4.2% of the total number of tests, and takes the total number of confirmed cases in Scotland to 98,686.

258 of the new cases were in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 166 in Lanarkshire, and 117 in Lothian.

The remaining cases were spread across the other mainland health board areas.

I can also confirm that 965 people are currently in hospital – that is a decrease of 17 from yesterday.

65 people are in intensive care, which is 4 less than yesterday.

And finally, sadly 41 additional deaths have been registered in the past 24 hours of a patient who first tested positive over the previous 28 days.

That takes the total number of deaths, under this measurement, to 3,889.

Each one of those deaths was of course of a unique individual, whose loss is a source of grief and I extend my condolences to all those who have lost a loved one during this pandemic.

I am joined today by Professor Jason Leitch, our National Clinical Director, who will be helping me answer the journalists’ questions shortly.

Before that, there are three main items I want to update you on today. 

The first concerns international travel.

Very often, on a Friday, we provide an update on the quarantine exemption list.  Following our usual risk assessments, I can confirm that the Scottish Government has not made any change to the list, this week.

As you may be aware, the UK Government last night announced a number of changes to the quarantine rules for England.   Those changes exempt certain categories of people, working in certain sectors, from the requirement to self-isolate.    

I want to emphasise that these changes apply only in England – and that they do not apply here in Scotland.  

The quarantine requirements in this country, are unchanged.  Anyone travelling to Scotland from a place that is not on the exemption list, will be required to self-isolate for 14 days upon their return.

The Scottish Government will assess the need for any further sectoral exemptions at our next review of the international travel regulations – which is to be completed by 14 December.   And as we do that, we will of course need to consider very carefully the impact on public health.

In general, of course, our advice in relation to international travel, remains the same.   The Scottish Government is continuing to advise very strongly against any unnecessary travel overseas right now. 

My second update for today concerns additional support for the childcare sector.

The Scottish Government has today announced the extension of our rates relief scheme for nurseries. 

The scheme provides full non-domestic rates relief, for premises that are used entirely – or primarily - as day nurseries.   And this year alone, it is estimated to have saved eligible nurseries an average of £12,000.

The rates relief scheme was due to expire in March.  Today, we’ve announced that we are extending it for it for a further two years – until June 2023. We hope this helps to ensure that childcare can remain as affordable, as possible. 

Day nurseries – like so many businesses – have faced continuing financial pressures as a result of the pandemic.

However they play a critical part in supporting the learning and development of young children. And they will also be especially important - as our economy recovers from this crisis - in allowing parents and carers to work, study and learn new skills.

So my hope is that today’s announcement, by providing further certainty for the sector, will be good news for day nurseries in particular, and also good news for families across the country.

The third and final item I want to cover today relates to the good news we’ve had this week about a vaccine.   Specifically, I want to reiterate some of the points, of our vaccination plan.

As the First Minister stated earlier this week, we expect the first vaccine deliveries very soon, which will allow vaccinations to begin on Tuesday of next week. 

Obviously, we will start by vaccinating those who will be vaccinating everyone else. We will then follow the independent advice we have received from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.

They have recommended prioritising those with the greatest clinical need – specifically, frontline health workers, residents and workers in care homes for older people, and people over the age of 80.  So these will be the first groups to receive the vaccine. 

With regard to the Pfizer vaccine, there are conditions attached to its authorisation which make it difficult to transport to some locations – such as care homes. We are in the process of planning how that can be done safely and effectively.  And we plan for the vaccine to start reaching care homes from the 14th of December.

Provided that the volume of vaccines being delivered allows – and this will be influenced by other vaccine’s gaining supply approval like Pfizer’s – we aim to have the first phase of the vaccination programme completed by Spring. Clearly, if there are delays in supplies which will impact our timings – but we will move as swiftly and flexibly as vaccine supplies allow.

The Joint Committee sets out a clear order of priority for vaccine delivery and we will follow that as much as it is practicable. The priority list they identified represents around 99% of preventable mortality from Covid-19.

Once the vaccination of these groups is completed we will seek to vaccinate the rest of the adult population – as while the risk of mortality is much lower in people under the age of 50, there is still a risk of serious and debilitating illness.

The very fact that vaccinations in Scotland are scheduled to start in four days’ time is fantastic news, and for all of us, it brings real hope that an end to the pandemic is in sight.

However the end is not here yet, and it won’t be for some time. And so for the moment, the fact that vaccination is now a real prospect, should encourage all of us to do everything we can to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe.

The best way of doing that, as ever, is to stick to the current rules and guidelines. So I will end, as usual, by highlighting some of the key points from those guidelines.

If you are in any doubt about what those rules are in your local authority, you can of course use the postcode checker on the Scottish Government’s website.

However nobody outside of Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles should be visiting each other’s homes, except for very specific purposes - such as childcare.

If you do meet people from other households – either outdoors or in public indoor places– the limit is six people, from a maximum of two households.

In addition, avoid car-sharing if you can.

Work from home if you can.  As we move into winter, and the weather worsens, there’s all the more reason to do that.

Download the Protect Scotland app, if you are able to do so.

And finally, remember FACTS - the five key rules that we can all use, to reduce our risk of getting the virus, or of passing it on:

  • face coverings
  • avoid crowded places
  • clean your hands and clean hard surfaces
  • keep two metres distance from people from other households
  • and self-isolate, and get tested immediately, if you have any of the symptoms of COVID.

By sticking to these rules, we can protect ourselves, our loved ones and our communities. We will also protect our NHS. And we can save lives.  

So thank you once again for all that you are doing in this national effort.

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