- 4 Jun 2020
Good afternoon. Thank you very much for joining us for today’s briefing.
I want to start with my usual update on the current position in relation to Covid-19.
As at 9 o’clock this morning, there have been 15,553 positive cases confirmed – that is an increase of 49 from yesterday.
A total of 1,021 patients are currently in hospital with either confirmed or suspected Covid-19. That represents a total decrease of 96 from yesterday, including a decrease of 21 in the number of confirmed cases.
A total of 28 people last night were in intensive care with confirmed or suspected Covid 19. That is a decrease of 6 since yesterday.
I am also able to confirm today that since 5 March, a total of 3,758 patients who had tested positive and required hospital treatment for the virus have been able to leave hospital.
And in the last 24 hours, 9 deaths have been registered of patients confirmed through a test as having the virus – that takes the total number of deaths in Scotland, under that measurement, to 2,395.
Now, as I often say, we cannot and indeed we should not read too much into any one day’s figures - and tomorrow’s figure or the next day’s figure may be higher than the one I have just given you - but I think it is still worth noting that yesterday was the first weekday, since 27 March, when the number of deaths registered under our daily measure was in single figures. I think that demonstrates the progress we are making against this virus, but it also underlines why we all continue to need to comply with the public health guidance, so that we can continue to make this progress and don’t allow it to go into reverse.
But of course 9 deaths is still too many, and thinking of those 9 lives lost reinforces the point I make every day: that these figures are not just statistics; they represent people - unique and irreplaceable individuals - whose loss will have left families shattered and grieving. So I want to send my condolences once again to everyone who has lost a loved one to this virus.
I also want to express my thanks– as I always do – to our health and care workers, for the incredible work you are doing in incredibly challenging circumstances. My thanks goes to each and every one of you. The entire country owes you a debt of gratitude.
I am joined today by the Chief Medical Officer and the Cabinet secretary for Health. The Cabinet Secretary has some information to share about the prioritisation of cancer services, and the Chief Medical Officer will focus on figures which were published yesterday relating to patients in intensive care.
Before they speak, I want to acknowledge the job losses announced yesterday at Rolls Royce in Inchinnan. That announcement will have been devastating news for the workforce and their families, at what is already a very anxious time - and unfortunately it may not be the last of its kind in the period ahead. I want to stress that the Scottish Government will do everything we can to secure as good an outcome as we can for those whose jobs are at risk.
Yesterday’s news emphasises a point I have made before – that alongside a public health emergency, we are also now dealing with an economic emergency, on a scale none of us have experienced.
And that requires - and it will get - the attention and focus of the Scottish Government, just as the health emergency has and continues to get.
We have already allocated more than £2.3 billion to help businesses in Scotland through measures such as grants and business rates relief. That is in addition to welcome UK Government measures such as the furlough scheme.
Mitigating and addressing the economic costs of Covid is going to become an even greater priority in the weeks and months ahead.
But alongside that, and as part of our response, we also want to help businesses, where possible, to adapt and find new markets.
One of the areas where we have been doing that already, is in relation to personal and protective equipment, or PPE – in Scotland.
We are publishing a report today that summarises how we are securing PPE for health and care workers in Scotland – it also sets out the work we are doing to develop a manufacturing chain for that equipment.
To demonstrate the scale of some of this work, it’s maybe worth looking at an item such as fluid resistant surgical masks. Those are masks which help to prevent blood, bodily fluids and secretions from one person – including water droplets from coughs – coming into contact with the mouth or nose of the person wearing the mask.
Prior to Covid-19, National Services Scotland would provide around 57,000 of those masks to our health and care sector each week.
Now, instead of needing 57,000 masks a week, we need 4 ½ million. That is an 80-fold increase.
To meet that demand, we are importing equipment from overseas. 100 million fluid resistant masks have been imported from China, and a further 60 million are on order.
But we are also working with suppliers in Scotland to establish domestic supply chains.
Alpha Solway, a firm based in south-west Scotland which specialises in protective clothing, is due to start producing masks in August. They have taken on 30 new staff to do so, and they are using raw material sourced from Don & Low in Forfar.
As a result, we hope that in due course, manufacturers in Scotland will be able – not just to meet demand for these masks here in Scotland – but also provide them to other parts of the UK or to other countries in Europe.
There is a similar story in relation to other items of equipment. We are creating supply chains for non-sterile gowns and FFP3 masks. In addition, Berry BPI are planning to make 2-3 million new aprons a week in Greenock. A number of smaller Scottish enterprises are planning to make visors.
And CalaChem Ltd has produced 580,000 litres of hand sanitiser at its Grangemouth plant, using ethanol provided by Whyte & Mackay.
Many other Scottish businesses have diversified in order to help with the provision of PPE and I am grateful to each and every one of them.
They have worked alongside public service bodies such as NHS Scotland, Scottish Development International and the National Manufacturing Institute for Scotland.
And it is worth highlighting that in many cases, companies are not simply making existing products. They are often using innovation to improve the equipment – for example by ensuring that face masks fit better on small faces, and that more equipment can safely be re-used.
Fundamentally, the Scottish Government’s priority – which we are achieving - must always be to ensure that we have adequate stocks of PPE.
Our health and care service workers – the people who help and protect us – must themselves be protected.
That is important at the moment, but also for the future, as we look to reopen the NHS, and maintain secure stocks of equipment for social care.
We will always, when necessary, place major orders with overseas suppliers.
However we are also increasingly taking advantage of the expertise of manufacturers here. Doing that gives us greater reassurance that supplies will be secure in the long term, and it also creates real benefits in terms of jobs and exports.
Those benefits don’t of course come close to balancing the wider economic harms caused by this pandemic – and so the Scottish Government will continue to work with business and the UK Government to address those. But these benefits are welcome nonetheless. And they are a testament to the ongoing importance and excellence of our manufacturing sector here in Scotland.
I will hand over to the Cabinet Secretary and Chief Medical Officer in a moment. Before I do that, however, I want to re-emphasise our key public health guidance.
And I’m asking you today to focus not just on what you are now allowed to do as a result of the small changes we made last week - but to focus even more so on what we are still asking you not to do.
It is by not doing certain things right now that we will help stop the virus spreading - so that means not meeting other households indoors, not coming within 2 metres of people from other households, not shaking their hands or hugging them, not sharing food or utensils with others or touching hard surfaces they may also have touched and not leaving your face uncovered in enclosed spaces like shops and public transport.
So I’m asking you to think about all of that every time you leave home or meet with someone from another household.
And, particularly, ahead of a weekend when the weather forecast is more traditionally Scottish ie heavy rain - I want to particularly emphasise this point:
You cannot and must not meet people from another household indoors - that is a sure fire way of allowing this virus to spread again.
So if you’re not willing to get your waterproofs on and meet outdoors, don’t meet up at all.
I cannot emphasise that enough.
So to recap -
You should still be staying home most of the time, and you should still be meeting fewer people than normal. If your life feels like it is getting back to normal at the moment, you should ask yourself whether it should be and whether you are complying with all the guidance.
When you do meet people from another household, you must stay outdoors, and you must stay 2 metres apart from them.
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 – I stress, a maximum - of 8 people in a group.
Wash your hands often. Take hand sanitiser if you are out and about.
Wear a face covering when you are in shops or on public transport.
Avoid touching hard surfaces - and clean any you do touch.
And if you have the symptoms of Covid-19 – a new, continuous cough; a fever; or a loss of, or change in, your sense of smell and taste – you must get tested, and follow the advice on self isolation.
Above all else, please remember that the decisions each of us take as an individual, affect the health and wellbeing of all of us.
Please, continue to do the right thing, and to stick to those guidelines. It really, really matters, and it matters as much now as it did at the start of this pandemic. By doing so, we will continue to slow the spread of the virus, and save lives. So thank you, once again, to all of you for doing that.