Good afternoon. Thanks for joining us for today’s briefing.
I want to start – as I always do – by updating you on some of the key statistics in relation to COVID-19 in Scotland.
As at 9 o’clock this morning, there have been 13,627 positive cases confirmed - an increase of 141 from yesterday.
A total of 1,453 patients are in hospital with COVID-19 - that is a decrease of 31 from yesterday.
A total of 80 people last night were in intensive care with confirmed or suspected COVID 19. That is a decrease of 2 since yesterday.
I am also able to confirm today that since 5 March, a total of 3114 patients who had tested positive for the virus have been able to leave hospital. I wish all of them well.
And unfortunately I also have to report that in the last 24 hours, 5 deaths have been registered of patients who had been confirmed through a test as having COVID-19 – that takes the total number of deaths in Scotland, under that measurement, to 1,862.
I want to emphasise again today that those figures should be treated with some caution. Although deaths can be registered at weekends, registration numbers at weekends are usually relatively low, and can be particularly low following a Sunday. This should be taken into account when looking at today’s figures.
And as always, I want to stress that these numbers are not simply statistics. They represent individuals whose loss is being felt deeply by their loved ones. I want to send my deepest condolences to everyone who is grieving as a result of this virus.
I also want to thank, as I always do, our health and care workers. You are doing extraordinary work going above and beyond the extra mile in incredibly challenging circumstances. All of us owe you a huge debt of gratitude.
In a moment, I’ll ask the Cabinet Secretary to set out the details of a new wellbeing programme which is being launched today – to support the mental health of those working in our health and care sector, at this very difficult time. Before that, there are two items I want to address.
Firstly, the Scottish Government has today published our second coronavirus bill.
The Bill includes a range further measures, to help Scotland through this pandemic. Among other things, it provides additional support for unpaid carers.
It ensures that Carers Allowance recipients will receive an extra payment, on top of the Carers Allowance Supplement. That will see around 83,000 carers receive an additional £230 – to support them through this period.
Being a carer is incredibly demanding at the best of times – and I know it’s only more difficult right now. So I want to thank each and every one of Scotland’s carers for the incredibly important role that you are playing.
The bill is due to go through parliament in the next two weeks. And I hope that when it does, this additional payment – alongside the other support we’re providing – helps to make things a little bit easier for you.
The second item I want to cover today concerns the lockdown restrictions.
Last night, the Prime Minister set out some of the details of his plan, for easing restrictions in England. More of the detail of that has emerged this morning – and will continue to come out, during the day.
I want to reiterate that those announcements do not apply here. That is not, I want to stress, for any political reason. It is because the Scottish Government is not yet confident that these changes can be made in Scotland without us running the risk of the virus potentially running out of control. Scotland’s lockdown restrictions remain in place for now. And our key message remains the same.
We need you to stay at home.
We do not, at this point, want to see more businesses opening up – or more people going to work.
We do not yet want to see more people using public transport.
And we are not yet changing who can or should be at school.
The only change we’ve made, here in Scotland is to the guidance on exercise.
As of today, we have removed the once-a-day limit on exercise. It means that - if you want to go for a walk more often - or to go for a run and also a walk - then you can now do so.
That change obviously doesn’t apply if you or someone in your household has symptoms of COVID-19, or if you received a letter explaining that you are in the shielded group. In those cases, you should still stay at home completely.
For everybody else, you will still need to stay relatively close to your own home. And at all times, you need to stay at least 2 metres away from people from other households.
I also want to stress that by exercise we mean activities like walking or running or cycling – not sunbathing or having a picnic. This does not give people a license to meet up, at the park or at the beach.
It’s just one very minor change to the existing rules. But all of the restrictions in Scotland for now remain in place.
And let me, for a moment, give one example of why this matters.
I read this morning, in the Evening Times, the tragic story of a family in Castlemilk, Glasgow.
Andy Leaman has told how his mum, dad and father in law have all died from the virus. He talks too of the impact on his nine year old daughter.
Their story is heartbreaking. And it could be any of us.
That family have told their story because they want people to listen to the advice.
In today’s paper they say:
“People need to realise it’s real. The guidelines that are set out need to be followed.
“It may be them next and their families, and we would not want anyone to go through what we have had to go through.
“Stay in the house, social distance. That is the way to keep people you love safe.”
I think that is a very powerful message. It underlines the importance of the restrictions – and why we need to stick with them.
So to close today, I want to reiterate today - simply and I hope clearly - what the restrictions continue to be while our progress against this potentially deadly virus remains fragile.
Except for essential purposes such as exercise, buying food or medicines, or going to do essential work that you can’t do from home – you should not be going out. You must stay at home.
If you do go out, you should stay more than two meters from other people, and you should not be meeting up with people from other households.
You should wear a face covering if you are in a shop or on public transport.
And you should isolate completely if you or someone else in your household has symptoms.
I know that these restrictions continue to be extremely tough. And I know that hearing any talk about easing the lockdown, might make them seem even tougher. But please, stick with it.
We are making progress. But to combat this virus, we still need to stay apart from each other. We still need to stay at home.
And the more we do that now, the sooner we will be able to ease more of these restrictions.
I set out yesterday the further changes that we are considering making as soon as we judge it safe to do so.
We all want to see our friends and families - we all miss them more with each day that passes. We all want to see children go back to school, and we all desperately want to get back to some kind of normality.
Please know that I want all of that too - I want that as your First Minister.
But I also want it as an ordinary person who is missing my own family very much.
But I know we will get there more quickly if we all keep doing the right thing now.
If we take our foot off the brake too soon, the real danger is we will end up in this lockdown for longer - and worse of all, we will lose many more people along the way.
None of us want that. So please be patient. And please try not to get distracted by messages from other parts of the UK. All governments across the UK are trying to do the right thing and all of us have a responsibility to take the steps we think are right, at the right time.
So please if you live in Scotland, abide by the law that applies here and follow the Scottish Government guidance.
Can I also make a respectful plea to the media. Your scrutiny role is essential and you perform it robustly - rightly so.
But at a time like this - when health is at stake - all of us have a public duty too. Please make it clear to your readers, listeners and viewers what the actual situation is in different parts of the UK.
Moving at different speeds in different parts of the UK for good, evidence based reasons need not be a cause of confusion - indeed other countries are taking different steps in different areas at different times.
Confusion only arises if we as politicians and the media who report on us are either unclear in what we are asking people to do - or if we give a misleading impression that decisions that apply to one nation only are actually UK wide.
Never has the duty on political leaders to communicate clearly been greater. And in the provision of basic public health information, I hope the media will continue - as you most of you have been doing - to appreciate the importance of that too.
This matters to all of us.
If we see continued high compliance with the restrictions in Scotland for a bit longer, we will continue to slow the spread of the virus, we will protect the NHS, we will save lives and we will all move on quickly to the day when these restrictions start to be eased. Thank you, once again, to everyone who is doing that.
There is a problem
Thanks for your feedback