Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: First Minister's speech 11 September 2020

Statement given by the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at a media briefing at St Andrew's House, Edinburgh

Good afternoon, and thanks for joining us.

I am joined here today by the deputy chief medical officer Dr Nicola Steedman who will say a few words shortly.

I will start though with the usual run through of the daily statistics.

An additional 175 positive cases were confirmed yesterday.

That represents 2.7% of the people who were newly tested yesterday and the total number of cases is now 22,214.

80 of today’s cases are in Greater Glasgow & Clyde, 39 in Lanarkshire, 24 in Lothian and 12 in Ayrshire & Arran.

The remaining 20 are spread across another 6 health boards.

I should flag up that the situation in Lanarkshire is causing some particular concern today. There will be expert public health discussions over the course of today and, depending on the judgments and conclusions they arrive at, it may be that some additional restrictions will have to be applied there. We will keep people updated.

I can also confirm that 269 patients are currently in hospital with confirmed COVID, which is three more than yesterday.

Eight people are in intensive care, which is one more than yesterday.

But I am pleased to say that in the last 24 hours, no deaths have been registered of patients who first tested positive.

The total number of deaths, under this measurement, therefore remains at 2,499.

Of course, that total, always reminds us that this virus has had a terrible impact and I want again to convey my condolences to everybody who has lost someone.

Today I want to focus on two key announcements that we made yesterday just to underline their importance of both.

Firstly, the Protect Scotland app, which you’ve probably heard, was launched yesterday. It is now available for download.

More than 600,000 people have already downloaded the app – so if you were one of those, thank you for doing so.

But for the app to be as effective as possible, to help us in the fight against COVID and to help us live a bit more normally, then we need as many people as possible across Scotland to download it and use it.

So if you haven’t yet done so, you can download it via the Protect.Scot website, you’ll see that on the front of the podium or you can go to the Apple or Google play app stores and search Protect Scotland and you’ll find the app there.

The process for downloading it is very quick and simple. You don’t need to provide any personal information.

The way in which the app works is also really simple.

If you test positive for COVID, you will be given a code by Test & Protect to enter into the app.

Once you do that, the app will automatically identifies any other app users you have been in close proximity with – that means anyone you have been within two metres of, for more than 15 minutes, within a particular time scale.

The app will then immediately alert those people that a contact of theirs has tested positive - though they won’t know who that is - and it will provide them with information and links to advice on self-isolating.

Similarly, you will receive an alert if a contact of yours has tested positive - but again you won’t know who they are. Everything about the app is anonymous and confidential.

It doesn’t replace the current Test & Protect system, but instead it’s an enhancement of that.

It will be particularly useful for settings – such as public transport – where we tend to spend time in close proximity to people we don’t know so we wouldn’t be able to give the details of these people to a contact tracer who telephones us.

We also think it will be very valuable as students start to arrive back at university or college. So if you’re a student about to go to college or Uni make sure you download the app because it will help with you having a bit of normality about how you go about your daily lives and if you have relatives that are about to start college or Uni, make sure you remind them to go on and download it.

Also, one of the crucially things about it is helps reduce the time it takes to notify contacts. If you think about it, a manual contact tracing system is excellent and it’s doing a great job but by definition the time taken to phone someone, taking the details from them and then contact those people, takes a bit of time. By contrast, the app provides contacts with almost immediate notification which will then be supplemented by advice as necessary from the Test and Protect team.

So for all of these reasons that I really want to stress, this app is a really important way in which all of us can support Test and Protect in the efforts that they are making but also a really important way for all of us to keep our communities safe and I know Nicola will talk more about this shortly. But in the face of COVID, we can all feel a bit, you know, powerless right now but this is a way of us doing something positive that helps in that collective effort.

Let me just stress again, because I know there are some people that understandably have concerns about any technology. This app has been designed with privacy absolutely in mind. It is anonymous and confidential, as I said a moment ago, it does not track your movements, it doesn’t know where you are or track your location, apart from the most minimal of data it needs to work. It doesn’t collect or pass on data.

Your data won’t be past to the DWP or HMRC or anybody else and someone like me can’t go and look anything about you because it doesn’t identify you personally at all.

So it’s a really good innovation and a good enhancement of this vital Test and Protect system that as we go into winter becomes ever more important. And I’ll come back to the simple facts I started with.

The sign up rate we saw yesterday and overnight and into today is excellent, probably beyond our initial expectations but we’ve got to keep that going, we’ve got to keep the numbers growing because the more of us who download and use it, the more effective this app will be and a more effective Test & Protect will be overall in helping us to tackle COVID.

So I would encourage you to visit and download the app today - and spread the word to all your friends and family as well.

It is a simple thing we can do but it’s a really important thing all of us can do as individual citizens to help protect Scotland as a whole.

The second issue I want to highlight are the new rules and guidelines that we announced yesterday. In particular, I want to emphasise the new rules on social gatherings.

You know since July, up to eight people from three households have been able to meet indoors. The limits are a bit higher for larger for outdoor gatherings.

These limits no longer apply. A maximum now of six people, from a maximum of two households, will be able to meet together.

Now, I know that that is a really tough restriction. That’s why I want to assure you that the decision we made on this wasn’t taken lightly. At the moment we believe this is necessary to try to limit and restrict as much as we can the transmission of the virus between different households.

To put it bluntly, this virus wants to find new households to infect - that’s pretty much all it cares about - and to survive it has to transmit from person to person and household to household. So in order to push it into retreat as we did over the summer, we have to limit the opportunities for it to spread between households.

Whether this virus thrives or dies, is down to the opportunities we give it or deny it.

So to reduce transmission, and also to simplify the rules, this new limit will apply indoors - in houses, in pubs and restaurants - and also outdoors, including in private gardens.

There will be some limited exceptions - for example for organised sports and places of worship.

I also outlined yesterday an exception to allow up to 20 people to attend funeral wakes or wedding and civil partnership receptions.

And any children under 12, who are part of two households meeting up, don’t count towards the limit of six people.

Now, our initial decision for the reasons I’ve talked about, trying to limit that spread between households, is that children under 12 do count towards the household number – so children from several different households can’t gather altogether in your home.

However, I have asked for some additional expert advice to see if in some circumstances we could exempt children from the two households rule as well. For example, children’s birthday parties could go ahead, even on a limited basis, as long as adults complied with the limit. We will clarify this over the next few days. Hopefully in the early part of next week.

And that indicates that we don’t want these rules to be applied any more severely than they have to be but we have to make sure that they are applied stringently enough in order to have the desired effect. That’s why some decisions are quite difficult and we need to think quite carefully about them.

The basic rule though, to remind people, is that in any setting, indoors or outdoors for now, you should not meet in groups of more than six people from a maximum of two households.

The regulations that will give legal effect to the new measures will come into force on Monday, and more detail will be available on our website.

But I would encourage people to start sticking to them now, rather than waiting for them to take legal effect on Monday.

And of course, for now, for people living in Glasgow, East or West Dunbartonshire, Renfrewshire and East Renfrewshire, the advice is not to visit other people’s households at all.

Now, I know all this can be really hard to understand – as you might have heard me saying at one of the briefings earlier in the week, at the early stage of this pandemic, we were just saying to all of you, just stay at home, that’s quite easy for people to understand, very hard to abide by, but easy to understand. It’s a bit more difficult now and I really get that.

We’re trying to simplify the rules as much as possible – but the point I want to just briefly touch on right now is that the fact that I know sometimes, these rules right now seem to be inconsistent.

One of the young people in my own life messaged me this morning to ask, pretty forcefully, why she can be with her friends at school all day today she can’t be with her friends after school later on.

And to be fair, that’s not an unreasonable question.

The basic answer is this - we are having to restrict interactions in the population generally to try to keep the virus at a low enough level to keep schools open, because we know being at school is so important for young people, educationally and socially.

So what can sometimes appear to be inconsistencies are actually the essential trade-offs that we need to make to avoid going back into lockdown more completely and to avoid, if at all possible, of having to close schools again. So I know this can be difficult to understand but I would ask you, or seek to give you an assurance, that we do think carefully about all of this and while it can sometimes be difficult to fathom it, there is a rational behind the decisions that we are taking.

Now yesterday of course, we also decided to implement two additional measures to reduce the risk of transmission in the hospitality sector. Again, these will take effect legally from Monday but there’s no reason why people shouldn’t start to abide by these straight away.

Firstly, it will become mandatory for customers in hospitality premises to wear face coverings when they are not eating or drinking – for example when they enter the premises and go to their table, or when they leave the table to go to the bathroom.

And second it is already recommended in guidance that staff working in hospitality premises should wear face coverings. From Monday, that advice – subject to some exemptions, the same exemptions that apply to face coverings elsewhere – will become law.

The hospitality sector has put a lot of effort into making it safe for people to go out and meet up, and I am very grateful to them for that. These additional protections are all about helping to ensure the sector can remain open because that matters for the large numbers of people that of course who work within it as well as the people who enjoy the services that it provides.

The final point I want to make before handing over to Nicola, is that the changes that I announced yesterday I know are really unwelcome.

I did not want to announce them, and I’m sure that none of you wanted to hear them.

But in our judgement, imposing more restrictions now on how people can meet up, is necessary to avoid a stricter lockdown later.

Over the last month and a half, the average number of cases recorded in Scotland each day has been more than trebling every three weeks. That is not sustainable if we are to keep schools and businesses safely open.

So we have to act now in order to try to stem that increase and avoid more restrictive measures becoming necessary later. The other point that I made yesterday I want to stress today. This is all really frustrating and tiresome for everyone.

But on the upside we are in a stronger position now that we were back on March. Cases are not rising as quickly and that is partly because now, we have Test and Protect operating and people are much more used to having to do all the basic things to try to limit the spread of the virus.

So we’re in a stronger position but we must protect the progress we’ve made and try to stop the virus running out of control again particularly because we’ve always known going into winter with colder temperatures and damper conditions are likely to see this virus spread again more quickly so please stick to the new rules – of six people, and two households – and don’t wait until Monday, do that now.

And always remember the other measures that will minimise the risk of you passing the virus on to other people.

The simplest way of trying to remember all of that is FACTS.

These are the rules that all of us if we follow them will help keep transmission as low as possible, so• Face coverings should be worn in enclosed spaces
• Avoid crowded places.
• Clean your hands and hard surfaces regularly.
• keep to Two metre distancing. • and Self isolate, and book a test, if you have symptoms.

I spoke earlier about downloading the Protect Scotland app, as a really simple but powerful thing we can help our communities. It is, and I would encourage you to do that.

But so is sticking to the five rules in FACTS.

The basic point that was true back in March that I think motivated all of us through really dark, difficult times, remains just as true today.

While our experiences are all different, I know that, but fundamentally we’re all in this together.

And fundamentally, it’s only together can we save lives and beat this virus.

So please, continue to play your part by doing all the things we ask.

Download the app and comply with the FACTS guidance.

Thank you to everybody for doing that and please continue to spread the word.

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