Good afternoon everyone. Thank you for joining us.
I’ll start as always with an update on the current position in relation to COVID-19.
As at 9 o’clock this morning, there have been 15,471 positive cases confirmed – which is an increase of 53 from the figures I gave you yesterday. However, I need you to note today that this figure of 53 includes 40 older positive test results, which have only been received today and are being added to the overall total now.
A total of 1,168 patients are currently in hospital with either confirmed or suspected COVID-19 and that is an increase of 122 from yesterday.
However, please note that the number of confirmed cases in hospital actually decreased by 23 compared to the figures yesterday.
A total of 34 people last night were in intensive care with confirmed or suspected COVID-19. That is an increase of 7 since yesterday - all 7 of those are suspected cases at this stage, not confirmed cases.
I am also able to confirm today that since 5 March, a total of 3,721 patients who had tested positive and required admission to hospital for the virus have now been able to leave hospital.
And unfortunately, in the last 24 hours, 12 deaths have been registered of patients confirmed through a test as having COVID-19 – that takes the total number of deaths in Scotland, under that measurement, to 2,375. Of course, tomorrow we will have the weekly report from National Records of Scotland which includes confirmed and suspected deaths from the virus.
Each one of these of course is an individual whose loss is being grieved and mourned by many. I want again today, to send my condolences to everyone who has lost a loved one to this illness.
Lastly, on statistics I can confirm that the latest report on delayed discharges has been published today. That includes details on the number of older people discharged from hospitals - where they had no clinical need to be - to care homes. In April that figure was 510. An additional 600 were discharged during April to their own homes.
In addition to thanking our health and care workers - as I do again today from the bottom of my heart - there are two other groups I want to pay tribute to and these groups are relevant to the two substantive issues I want to cover today.
The first group is our unpaid carers, who of course provide vital support to family, friends and neighbours at all times. This pandemic has been an especially stressful time for many of them, and I want to thank each and every one of them, you if you are watching, for your efforts.
One of the ways in which the Scottish Government has already acted to support carers, is by establishing a Carer’s Allowance Supplement – worth £460 a year. The supplement is paid to around 83,000 people across the country who receive Carers’ Allowance – people who are on low incomes, and who provide 35 hours or more of unpaid care to a child, or to an adult on disability benefits.
Last month, we announced that these carers will receive a further Coronavirus supplement of £230. Parliament approved our plans two weeks ago, and so people who are eligible will receive this payment at the end of this month, together with their normal Carer’s Allowance Supplement.
The specific date of payment will be confirmed in the next few days. Let me stress now, if you are eligible, you don’t need to do anything to receive this Coronavirus supplement – it will be paid to you automatically at the end of the month.
I know that this pandemic has been really hard for everyone but it has been very hard for carers emotionally – you are inevitably concerned about your own health, and the health of the people that you are caring for. However in many cases, it has also been very difficult financially. This extra payment is one way of providing you with some additional help – but is also an important way of us acknowledging the help and care that you provide to others.
I also want to acknowledge that this week is Volunteers Week – that’s an opportunity for all of us to highlight and celebrate the service of volunteers in communities the length and breadth of the country.
Of course, like unpaid carers, the efforts of volunteers are important at all times, but the Covid outbreak has demonstrated once again just how much they contribute. The Scotland Cares campaign, which you will recall we launched at the end of March, received more than 80,000 sign-ups in total. More than 60,000 of those were from people who wanted to volunteer through the British Red Cross or through Volunteer Scotland.
Some have been shopping for their neighbours - making sure people get the food and prescriptions and other essentials they need – others have been making befriending calls, or providing emotional support, to isolated or lonely people.
Some are directly helping with the response to COVID-19, and others are volunteering through long-standing community organisations.
There are also some people who signed up who may not have been asked to volunteer yet, but you may well be needed in the future – for example in supporting people who are asked to self-isolate under the “test and protect” system.
And of course, alongside the tens of thousands of people who have signed up under the Scotland Cares campaign, there are hundreds of thousands of people and many of you watching will be amongst that number who have been volunteering for years and in some cases for decades.
There are also, I know, many of you who are maybe not formally recognised as volunteers, but who have been performing important acts of kindness for neighbours and friends for a long, long time. I want to say how grateful I am, and how grateful the Scottish Government is to each and every single one of you.
Our national response to Covid depends on people being prepared to look out for each other and show solidarity with each other. Volunteers are an essential and highly valued part of that collective national effort.
Of course, each and every one of us has a part to play in that effort. And it remains the case, that the best way in which each of us can show solidarity with each other, is by sticking to the rules and the public health guidance.
That is the point I want to end on this afternoon.
You should still be staying at home most of the time right now, and you should still be meeting fewer people than normal.
I’d ask all of you to consider whether or not your life feels as if it is going back to normal? I’m sure that’s not the case but if it is, perhaps you should think about whether you are following all of the public health guidance because unfortunately, and regrettably, our lives shouldn’t feel completely normal right now.
When you do meet people from another household, when you are away from home, you should stay outdoors at all times, and you should stay 2 metres apart from people in other households.
Now you might be reading or hearing in the media today some voices saying that 1 metre is sufficient – so I want to take the opportunity today to stress that the clear and strong advice from the Scottish Government is to stay 2 metres apart from those in other households.
Don’t meet up with more than one other household at a time, don’t meet more than one a day - and please keep to a maximum, and I stress, a maximum of 8 people in a group.
Remember to wash your hands often. That is actually more important as you start to meet, albeit at a physical distance, with people from other households. So wash your hands often and thoroughly. If you’re away from your home, out and about, please remember to take hand sanitiser with you.
Wear a face covering when you are in shops or on public transport. And again, I want to make a direct appeal to you here, if you haven’t been wearing a face covering so far when you’re in a shop or on public transport or in other enclosed spaces, I’m asking you to please think about doing so now. Because it can offer some protection to other people, it protects them from you transmitting the virus to them if you have it perhaps without knowing it and other people who wear a face covering are offering you some protection as well. So again, it’s something all of us can do to protect each other.
Remember to avoid touching hard surfaces - and when you do touch a hard surface remember to clean it.
And if you have symptoms of COVID-19 – a new, continuous cough; a fever; or a loss of, or change in, your sense of smell or taste – you should get tested, and follow the advice on self-isolation.
I want to underline that point today as well. The success of our test, trace and isolate system - Test & Protect - depends on everyone with symptoms coming forward and getting tested.
So if you do experience symptoms – please do not delay – do not do that thing that sometimes in normal times all of us do, wait to see if we feel better after a day or so. The moment you start to experience these symptoms, book a test at nhsinform.scot or you can phone NHS 24 on 0800 028 2816.
It is really important that if you experience those symptoms, a cough, fever, a loss or change in sense of taste or smell then you come forward and book a test.
Above all else, and this is my final point, please remember that the individual decisions that all of us take right now have an impact far beyond our own health and wellbeing – our individual decisions right now affect the wellbeing of our families, our communities, indeed they affect the wellbeing of the entire country.
The Scottish Government’s responsibility to lead the country through this pandemic and to take all of the appropriate practical steps we need to take is a responsibility we and I, personally take very seriously.
But the truth is that our success or failure in suppressing this virus and keeping it suppressed will also depend on all of us as individual citizens and it will depend on our collective efforts as a society.
We must all continue to do the right thing by each other - by following all the rules and following all of the public health guidance.
I want to stress today that if we all do that, we will continue to slow down the spread of this virus and we will save lives. So my thanks to each and every one of you for doing that so far and I ask you to continue to do the right thing.
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