I’ll start – as I always do – with an update on some of the key statistics in relation to Covid-19 in Scotland.
As at 9 o’clock this morning, there have been 15,653 positive cases confirmed - an increase of 14 since yesterday.
A total of 1,011 patients are in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19. That represents a total decrease of 31 from yesterday, including a decrease of 14 in the number of confirmed currently cases in hospital.
A total of 21 people last night were in intensive care with confirmed or suspected Covid 19. That is a decrease of 3 since yesterday.
I am also able to confirm today that since 5 March, a total of 3,820 patients who had tested positive for the virus have been able to leave hospital. I wish all of them well.
And in the last 24 hours, 7 deaths were registered of patients confirmed through a test as having Covid-19 –the total number of deaths in Scotland, under that measurement, is therefore 2,422.
Of course, tomorrow we will have the weekly report from National Records of Scotland which includes confirmed and suspected deaths from the virus.
After two days of reporting zero deaths, today’s figure of 7 is, of course, not what we would want to hear.
However, it is important to stress that it is not a surprise either – we know there is a weekend lag in registration of deaths and so the numbers we report on Tuesdays are usually higher than those on Sundays and Mondays. Last Tuesday, for example, we reported 12 registered deaths.
So, today’s figure though an increase on the last two days, is nevertheless a further indication of a clear downward trend in the number of people who are losing their lives to this virus. And that, of course, is clearly welcome.
We know, however, that this will be no consolation whatsoever to people who are grieving these lost lives. The figures I have just read out are not simply statistics. They represent individuals who are being mourned and grieved by many. So - once again – I want to convey my deepest condolences to everyone who has lost a loved one to this illness.
I also want to express again my thanks to our health and care workers. The entire country is so grateful to you for everything you continue to do during this very difficult time.
And, during what is Carers Week, I also want to thank our unpaid carers. This pandemic has demonstrated again the importance of what you do – but it has also, I know, created additional stress and anxiety for many of you.
That is why the Health Secretary announced some additional help for young carers on Sunday, and it is why we are paying an additional Coronavirus Carers Allowance at the end of this month, to those who receive the Carers Allowance.
In addition, we have also helped carers’ centres to work remotely. That means that help, advice and support is still available - online or on the phone – to all carers across the country. That support is not just available to people who have been carers for several months or years – it also applies to people who have had to take on caring responsibilities as a direct result of this pandemic.
And so I’d recommend to any carer, including any new carer, that if you need advice - or practical help, or just a friendly word – you can search for your local carers’ centre on the Care Information Scotland website, and get in touch. Help is available for you if you need it.
And finally, thank you once again to all of our carers for everything that you do. Your efforts make such an enormous difference obviously to those you care for, to all of their loved ones, and to the wider community and our whole country. All of us are grateful to you for that.
I want to highlight two further issues today.
Firstly, I can confirm that we will publish initial data in relation to our Test and Protect system tomorrow. That information will include how many positive cases have been identified so far through Test & Protect, and how many of those have had their contacts traced. At this stage, this will be national data though we intend to break it down regionally in the weeks ahead and add more detail to it. It is also data that will, at this stage, reflect the early stage of Test & Protect.
One point that it is important to note at this stage is that the figures that we publish tomorrow will not completely match our daily testing figures that we publish at this daily update, because they will also include results from the drive-through centres that are situated in various parts of the country.
The Covid update I give tomorrow – which I will deliver in parliament just before First Minister’s Questions – may be too short to explain those new figures in detail. However I will say more about them later in the week.
For now, though, I want to stress that if you have symptoms of the virus - a new, continuous cough, a fever, or a loss or change in your sense of taste or smell - you should immediately take steps to book at test. Please do not wait to see if you feel better first, do it straight away. And you and your household, of course, should isolate immediately.
You can book a test at nhsinform.scot or by phoning NHS 24 on 0800 028 2816.
If you don’t have symptoms but you are contacted to say you’ve been a contact of someone who has tested positive, please do follow the advice you are given on self isolation.
I can’t stress enough that the willingness of all of us to fully co-operate with Test & Protect in the weeks and months to come will be absolutely vital to our efforts to keep the virus suppressed as we try to restore some normality to our everyday lives.
The second issue I want to cover relates to the impact of Covid-19 on people from minority ethnic communities.
Public Health Scotland’s preliminary analysis of data from Scotland, which was published towards the end of May, does not appear to show that people from ethnic minorities are disproportionately affected by Covid in terms of its impact on their health.
But these are preliminary findings based on limited data, and we know that studies in other parts of the UK and indeed around the world have provided different results to that. And we also recognise that people from ethnic minorities could be disproportionately affected by the economic and social impacts of COVID-19 – as well as the health impact.
The Scottish Government has already allocated more than £500,000 to organisations that work directly with ethnic minority groups across Scotland. But we know that we may well need to do more.
For that reason, I am establishing a new expert reference group, made up of academics and other advisers.
That group will consider the evidence on Covid-19 in Scotland – including the data provided by NHS Scotland, National Records of Scotland and Public Health Scotland – to assess the impact of the virus on minority ethnic communities. In areas where Covid is having a disproportionate effect, they will also make recommendations on policies and approaches to mitigate that.
It is always essential – at any time – to listen to people from our ethnic minority communities, to work with them, and to ensure that the policies we adopt and implement do not have disproportionate and adverse consequences. It is, however, especially important at this time, and I hope that this expert reference group will ensure that our response to Covid 19 takes full account of the needs and experiences of our minority ethnic communities.
Finally, I want to end by emphasising once again our key and very important public health guidance.
Right now you should still be staying home most of the time, and you should still be meeting fewer people than you would normally. If your life feels like it is getting back to normal, ask yourself why that is the case - because it really shouldn’t yet be getting back to normal.
When you do meet people from another household, you must stay outdoors, and you must stay 2 metres, at least, apart from them.
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 of 8 people in any group.
Wash your hands thoroughly and often. If you are out of your home, take hand sanitiser with you.
Please wear a face covering when you are in shops or on public transport or in any enclosed space where physical distancing is more difficult.
Avoid touching hard surfaces - and any you do touch, make sure you clean them regularly and thoroughly.
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 taste or smell - you must get tested, and follow the advice on self isolation.
And above all for all of us, if we all remember each and every day that the decisions we are taking as individuals now have a big impact on the health and wellbeing of all of us, then we will all do the right thing and it is more likely that we get through this crisis more quickly.
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