Good afternoon. Thanks for joining us for today’s briefing.
I want to start by providing provide an update, as I always do, on the current position in relation to Covid-19.
As at 9 o’clock this morning, there have been 15,418 positive cases confirmed - an increase of 18 from yesterday.
A total of 1,046 patients are in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19. That represents a total decrease of 27 from yesterday, including an increase of 3 in the number of confirmed cases.
A total of 27 people last night were in intensive care with confirmed or suspected Covid 19. That is the same as the figure yesterday.
I am also able to confirm today that since 5 March, a total of 3,695 patients who had tested positive and required hospital treatment for the virus have been able to leave hospital.
And unfortunately, in the last 24 hours, 1 death has been registered of a patient who had been confirmed through a test as having Covid-19 – that takes the total number of deaths in Scotland, under that measurement, to 2,363.
That figure should be treated with some caution. Although deaths can be registered at weekends, registration numbers are usually relatively low at the weekend and they can be especially low on a Sunday.
For example, just to illustrate that point, last week I reported 3 deaths on Monday, but then reported 18 deaths on Tuesday. That should be taken into account when looking at today’s figure.
And of course we must always remember that these numbers are not simply statistics. They represent unique and irreplaceable individuals whose loss is mourned by many. I want to send my condolences to everyone who has lost a loved one to this virus.
I also want to express once again my deep thanks to our health and care workers. You are doing incredible work in exceptionally challenging circumstances, and all of us owe you a debt of gratitude.
The statistics that I have just read demonstrate the real progress we have made together against the virus. There are now far fewer people in hospital and in intensive care than at the peak of the outbreak.
But these statistics also demonstrate how fragile that progress is. There are still hundreds of people in hospital and suffering from this virus. There are still new infections in many health board areas. And it is still the case that every day, I have to stand here and confirm further loss of life.
The fact is the virus is being suppressed - but it has not gone away, and it is still extremely dangerous. Indeed, our routemap out of lockdown expressly recognises that during phase 1, which we entered on Friday, there is still a high risk that the virus is not yet contained.
We all must understand that and continue to remember it.
I know that in the last three days, many of you have had long-awaited reunions with family, friends and loved ones. I really hope you enjoyed that - and enjoyed the lovely weather too.
I also know that the vast majority of people stuck to the rules when having those reunions and I want to thank you sincerely for that – you stayed outdoors in small groups, and you stayed more than 2m away from other households. So again my thanks to you for that.
However it is also clear that over the weekend not everyone stuck to the rules. I’m told by the police that on Saturday alone there were 797 dispersals and that is people being moved on for not complying with the rules. To give some content to that, that 797 is five times higher than the figure the previous Saturday.
And there were clearly cases where, despite the guidance we have issued, people were driving more than 5 miles to beauty spots. In some cases, people were staying overnight in tents, caravans or motorhomes.
Some of the early statistics we have from Transport Scotland are especially concerning.
Overall, transport yesterday was 70% up from the previous Sunday. Transport on Saturday was 60% up on the week before.
In some places - like Loch Lomond and Glencoe for example - the increase was even more dramatic.
On Saturday, on the A82 by Loch Lomond, traffic was around 3 times higher than the previous Saturday. We saw a similar picture around Glencoe.
I’m going to be blunt here - it is very hard to see how all of that can have been caused by local residents, or by people travelling a reasonable distance to meet loved ones.
So we will be considering all of this as we continue to assess the impact of the Phase 1 changes.
Last week we deliberately allowed some flexibility when we changed the lockdown restrictions. We recommended that people don’t travel more than 5 miles for recreation, but we left room for some discretion so that you could go further to visit family.
And we strongly recommended that when two households meet, there should be no more than eight people in total in a group - but again, we put that into guidance rather than putting it in law, because we trust, and continue to trust, the majority to keep those groups small and to stay within the rules.
But it is worth being clear, in fact I have a duty to be clear with you, that if there is continued evidence of even a minority not abiding by those guidelines and travelling unnecessarily – if people meet up in larger groups or make journeys which risk spreading the virus - we will have to put those restrictions, on group size and travel distance, into law. And we won’t hesitate to do so if we think it is necessary for the collective safety and wellbeing of the nation.
I should make clear, of course, that the stipulation that no more than two households can meet at any one time is already the law, and if need be, it will be enforced.
And I also want to remind you that the two households should keep 2 metres apart from each other, not share food or utensils, and not go inside each others’ houses.
And the reason I’m stressing all of this - the real danger we still face - is not because I want to be imposing these restrictions but it is because the progress we have made so far in tackling Covid-19 is not guaranteed and it is not irreversible. Cases could increase again, it won’t take too much for that to happen, rather than continuing to decrease. And if that happens then that will result in more loss of life.
And if all of that happens restrictions will have to be reimposed, rather than being relaxed. None of us want that. But the only way of avoiding it, is for all of us to comply with the rules.
Unless you are an essential worker, or work in one of the categories now permitted to be at work - you should still be spending the majority of your time at home.
You should still be seeing far fewer people than you might normally do. And those meetings you are now able to have – and your life more generally – still should not be feeling normal.
That basic point applies to everyone. I know that young people, for example, will be hugely frustrated after weeks in doors, and will be desperate to spend more time with friends in the park or at the beach. Young people may also think they are generally less likely to become very seriously ill as a result of this virus.
I want to say very directly to young people, this virus can still be harmful to you. And even if you yourself are not adversely affected, you can still pass the virus on to other young people, and then some of them may pass it on to others – for example parents or grandparents – who are at greater risk of becoming seriously ill. So please think about that wider interest when you are considering your own behavior in the days and weeks to come.
All of us want to be able to lift more restrictions, so that we can meet friends in more normal circumstances. We also want to be able to restart NHS services, as the Health Secretary spoke about yesterday – and to allow people to get back to work, school or study.
But we can only do this if we keep driving the overall level of Covid infections down, and if we continue to suppress the spread of the virus. And we can only do that, if people continue to stick to the rules.
So please, if I can conclude again by reminding you of what we are asking everybody to do:
Only meet people from other households outside – because the risk of transmission outside is lower than the risk of transmission indoors – and even outdoors stay 2 metres apart from the other household when you do meet.
Don’t meet with more than one other household at a time, don’t meet more than one a day and keep to a maximum of 8 people in a group.
Wash your hands often. Take hand sanitiser with you if you are out and about.
Please wear a face covering when you are in shops or on public transport or other enclosed spaces where physical distancing might be more difficult.
Avoid hard surfaces - and clean any you do touch.
And if you have symptoms, get tested and follow the advice on self isolation.
Above all, more generally – and this applies to each and every one of us – let’s remember that each decision we take as an individual, affects the safety and wellbeing of us all.
I know that that’s difficult. I understand just as much as anybody does the desire to see more people, and to travel outside your local area.
But if we all stick to these rules we are helping to suppress this virus. But if even just a few of you don’t stick to these rules, we are providing a chance for the virus to spread more quickly, and to spread to different parts of the country.
We need to continue to do the right thing, and to do right by each other. I know that the vast majority of you are doing that. Again, I want to sincerely thank you for that.
My appeal goes to everybody across the whole population. Let’s stick together and let’s all do the right thing for the benefit of ourselves and each other.
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