- 12 May 2020
Good afternoon. Thanks for joining us for today’s briefing.
I want to start, as usual, with an update on some of the key statistics in relation to COVID-19 in Scotland.
As at 9 o’clock this morning, I can tell you that there have been 13,763 positive cases confirmed - an increase of 136 from yesterday.
A total of 81 people last night were in intensive care with either confirmed or suspected COVID-19 and that is an increase of 1 since yesterday.
In terms of the numbers in hospital, I want to give a little bit more context to this figure today. As of last night, a total of 1618 patients were in hospital with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 - that is an increase of 165 from yesterday.
However, and this point I want to stress, that increase is entirely in suspected cases. The number of confirmed cases is 1,131 and that is a decrease of 14.
So, we are exploring this rise in suspected cases further. But as you know, all people over 70 admitted to hospital are now being tested even if they don’t have COVID symptoms. It may therefore be that until a test result is known, some health boards are automatically counting these patients as suspected even if they don’t have symptoms of the virus. So I wanted to say that today to just alert you to the fact that this is something we will be investigating further - but at this stage I’d caution against having any undue concern about the hospital figure that I have reported to you today.
I am also able to confirm that since 5 March, a total of 3,167 patients who had tested positive and been hospitalised for the virus have been able to leave hospital. I'm sure of all us wish them well.
Unfortunately I also have to report that in the past 24 hours, 50 deaths have been registered of patients who had been confirmed through a test as having the virus – that takes the total number of deaths in Scotland, under that measurement, to 1,912.
Tomorrow we will have the latest National Records of Scotland publication which will report deaths, not just those confirmed through a test but also those that are presumed to be related to the virus.
As always, I want to stress that behind each of these statistics is a unique and irreplaceable human being whose loss right now is a source of grief to many. I want to send my deepest condolences to everyone who has lost a loved one to this virus and to say I'm sure that everybody across the country is thinking of you.
I also want to thank again our health and care workers. All of us are enormously grateful to you for the work that you are doing.
Today – 12 May – is the International Day of the Nurse. Myself and the Chief Medical Officer are joined today by the Chief Nursing Officer, Fiona McQueen. And I want to say an extra special thank you to all of Scotland’s nurses - the past few weeks have demonstrated yet again just how much all of us owe to your compassion, your dedication and your expertise. From the bottom of my heart, thank you to all of you.
I have three issues I want to briefly update on today.
The first relates to the social care sector, which of course is being placed under immense pressure by this virus. The Scottish Government is working hard to support the sector in every way we can – we have, for example, expanded testing in care homes, we are also and have been for some time, ensuring that any care home with an urgent need for personal protective equipment that can’t be sourced through normal routes, can receive it from our national stockpile of PPE.
Today, I can confirm that we are making an additional £50 million available, to help meet extra costs in the care sector that have been incurred as a result of COVID-19.
The funding will be allocated across every local authority area in the country – and it will cover both care home services, and care at home services. It will help to ensure that care services around the country can cope, with the immense pressures they are facing at this time.
The second issue I want to update on is to tell you we are setting aside £31 million to extend eligibility to the Small Business Grants Scheme.
The extension applies to premises which qualified for Charitable or Sports Rates Relief – but which would otherwise, if they hadn’t qualified for those reliefs, have been eligible for the small business bonus.
Charities occupying these properties can now receive small business grants. Those grants, as you may recall, are worth £10,000 for the first property, and £7,500 for any subsequent property owned by the same organisation.
We know that many charities which run small premises - such as day centres, offices or workshops – have been really hard hit by a loss of revenue during the pandemic.
Many of these charities – which include providers of health and care services - are still providing vital support to those who need it. Extending the small business grants scheme is one way in which we can help them at a time when the help that they provide is more important than ever.
The final point I want to make today is that, as I have emphasised over the past couple of days, the lockdown restrictions remain in place for Scotland.
And so it’s maybe worth stressing what this currently means in relation to employers and employees.
I know that the UK Government published guidance for businesses yesterday. I want to stress that this guidance is not yet operational in Scotland at this stage, since we are not currently encouraging more people to go back to work.
I would ask instead that all employers follow the Scottish Government guidance. I am very grateful for the fact that the vast majority of employers have been so responsible throughout this crisis – so I am sure that most will do this, and will not urge workers to come back to work prematurely.
And for employees, I would remind you that if you think your working conditions are unsafe, you have rights under employment legislation. If you have a trade union in your workplace, and you have concerns about your working conditions, you should also be able to talk to them.
The Scottish Government is working with employers and trade unions to develop guidance on safe workplaces which has the confidence of businesses and workers.
We have therefore established working groups across 14 sectors to consider how quickly, and in what manner, we can start to return to work.
Early priorities, as I have stated before, are the retail, manufacturing and construction sectors. However the working groups also cover sectors such as tourism, energy, finance and food and drink.
We believe that this partnership approach is the right and responsible way to proceed. It will allow businesses to reopen when they can safely do so, and we all want that to be as soon as possible, and it will hopefully provide employers, workers and the wider public with the vital reassurance that reopening will not be putting your health at unnecessary risk.
Finally, I want to restate what the lockdown restrictions mean for all of us. Our fundamental advice in Scotland remains unchanged. Please stay at home - except for essential work that can’t be done at home, for buying food or accessing medicines, or exercising.
You can now go for walks, runs or bike rides more than once a day if you want to. But when you are out, please stay more than two meters from other people and don't meet up with people from other households.
Wear a face covering if you are in a shop or on public transport. And isolate completely if you or someone in your household has symptoms.
As I say every day, I know these restrictions are very hard and they get tougher to comply with every single day that passes. But we are doing it for a reason because by complying with these restrictions now, we will all come out of lockdown sooner and we will do so in a way that minimises the number of lives that are lost to this horrible virus.
So please stick with these restrictions for now. Because that is the way that we will continue to slow the spread of the virus, it’s how we will continue to protect the NHS and as I said a moment ago, it is how we will save lives. So my thanks again to all of you for your cooperation so far.