Good afternoon. Thanks for joining us for today’s briefing.
I want to start – as I always do – with a statistical update on COVID-19 in Scotland.
As at 9 o’clock this morning, I can report that there have been 14,260 positive cases confirmed - an increase of 143 since yesterday.
A total of 1,449 patients are in hospital with the virus – 1,066 of them have been confirmed through a test as having COVID-19, and 383 are suspected of having the virus. That overall number represents a decrease of 31 since yesterday.
A total of 71 people last night were in intensive care with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 - which is no change since the figure I reported to you here yesterday.
I am also able to confirm that since 5 March, a total of 3,290 patients who had tested positive and required hospitalisation for the virus have now been able to leave hospital, which is good news for them and their families.
Unfortunately I also have to report that in the last 24 hours, 46 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 2,053.
As always, because it is so important every single day that we never see these numbers as statistics, as always I want to stress that point. Behind every single one of these statistics I read out to you here today, is an individual whose loss is being mourned by friends, family and all of their loved ones. I want to send my deepest condolences to everyone who has lost a loved one to this virus. The thoughts of me, the government and I'm sure everybody across Scotland are very much with you at this time.
I also want to thank – as I always do - again, our health and care workers. Once again last night, I joined with people across the country, in the applause at 8pm. That is a small – but I hope powerful – way of demonstrating our deep appreciation, our ongoing appreciation for your incredible efforts at this very, very challenging time.
There are of course many, many other people who, in various different ways, are keeping the country going during this crisis. I can’t list all of them every day, but if you are in any of these categories know my deep appreciation and gratitude is with all of you. From time to time, I want to single out particular groups of workers so that they know that their efforts are not forgotten at this time.
Today I'm going to highlight the role of our telecoms workers and especially telecoms engineers.
The fact that we are being forced to stay physically distant from each other, has made many of us rely more than ever on technology. We're reliant much more now on technology for access to public services. Our children are relying on technology for access to education. Many are working from home and need technology for that. We're all using technology for staying in touch with family and friends at a time when we cannot physically see them.
So the contribution of those who keep all of these systems working, our phones and our broadband networks going at this time are so important to our everyday lives. That is true at all times but it is particularly true right now so I wanted to take the opportunity to say thank you to all of you.
I’m going to keep my general update today relatively brief.
As you know, the lock down restrictions here in Scotland remain very much in place. The message to you today, over the weekend and into next week, is still stay at home. The only change we've made to the guidance in place, which of course we announced last weekend, is the change on exercise.
That position we have in Scotland, now I want to be very clear, continues to be based on our assessment of the evidence – and on what we judge is right for the protection of people across the country.
However, as I also said on Sunday, we will continue to monitor the evidence very closely on an ongoing basis. And as we hopefully see more evidence of a downward trend in the virus – we will then consider further changes, but we will do so on a very careful and gradual basis.
When we know that lives are at stake and we have learned that everyday over these past seven or eight weeks as I've stood up here day in day out and read out numbers of people who have died. We do know that lives are at stake with this virus. Then for as long as that continues to be the case, I'm going to continue to err on the side of caution, err on the side of saving lives and reducing the number of people who might die unnecessarily.
And I hope I have your continued understanding in doing so.
However, I also want to give you as much visibility and advance notice of future changes as possible.
We can't live like this forever so we need to get some normality back as we continue to suppress the virus. We've tried to set out, as we have done in recent weeks on an ongoing basis, as much of our thinking and consideration as we can. As we can't yet confirm dates of when things will open up again, at least we will seek to share with you share the order of priority and potential phasing. So I will give you an indication now that next week, I will share with you more information on the assessments we are making and the range of options that we are looking at and any further minor changes that we might make in the short term.
And, as I have said before, as we make these decisions fairness and quality of life will be really important factors.
We are, of course, keen to get the economy moving again - I am very keen to get the economy moving again - that matters to all of us, not just to businesses.
But we also have to consider very carefully our social interactions.
A life where we go to work but stay locked down with no family interaction for the rest of the time is not one that many of us, if any of us, would enjoy.
So given that we are likely to have for quite a while to come very limited room for manoeuvre - and I want to stress that is the case - we will need to get these balances as right as possible. That’s why we are paying close attention to the ideas that many of you are taking the time to share us.
Our considerations will be informed, as we have always said, by the scientific evidence and advice and the clear principles we have set out.
In all of this continuing to set out clearly to you why we are asking you to live your lives in such a restrictive way is vital - so that you understand we are not asking you to do this for no reason and will not ask you to do this for any longer than we judge to be necessary.
It is not enough, and never be enough in my view, for me simply to tell you what I want you to do. I have to explain, I've got a duty to explain to you, on an ongoing basis my reasons for it.
Compliance with any measures we may need to keep in place will, I think, always be higher if I am clear, rational and straight with you about the difficult judgements they are based on.
So on that theme, I thought I’d just very briefly share with you today the results of some polling on attitudes that we have undertaken. And you'll understand that we do this just to check that the messages that we are trying to convey are being understood and getting across.
Though I’m not complacent about this at all, this polling that I'm going to share with you suggests that the really important bond of understanding between government and you, the public in Scotland, right now is currently very strong. And I want to do everything I can to keep it that way.
The polling reveals that there is widespread endorsement for the approach that we are taking in Scotland.
So, for example:
- 84% of you agree with a slow and gradual lifting of restrictions
- 82% of you agree that before further significant changes to lockdown restrictions are brought in, the impact of those already introduced should be assessed
- 86% continue to agree that decisions on when and how to lift restrictions must be based on saving lives and protecting the NHS
So, I want to take the opportunity again today to thank you for your support. These last few weeks have truly been a collective endeavour - we’ve all been making sacrifices not just for our own sake, but for the sake of each other as well.
We’ve been putting those values I keep talking about - of love, kindness and solidarity - into practice.
My ask of you is that we keep doing so for a bit longer. Let me, therefore, end with this fundamental point.
The way in which we save lives, but also the way we emerge from this lockdown that bit more quickly, is by sticking now with the current guidance.
So before I hand over firstly to the Chief Nursing Officer, and then to our National Clinical Director, I want to reiterate – once again – what that guidance says.
Please stay at home. Except for essential work that you can’t do at home, for buying food or accessing medicines, or for exercising, you should not be going out.
Of course, you can now exercise more than once a day, if you want to. But when you are out, please stay more than two metres from other people and don't meet up with people from other households.
Please wear a face covering if you are in a shop or on public transport. And remember to wash your hands thoroughly and regularly.
Finally, if you or someone else in your household has symptoms of the virus, then please stay at home completely.
I know that these restrictions are tough, I say this every day but I'm always conscious on a Friday of just how much tougher these restrictions feel for all of us over the weekend, particularly when the sun is out, which as we know, is sometimes a rare occasion in our country. But these restrictions are essential for now and crucially, and this is the point I really want to leave you with - they are making a difference and I hope you can see that in the statistics, albeit the difficult statistics that I'm sharing with you everyday.
By staying at home we are slowing down the spread of this virus, we are protecting the NHS, we are undoubtedly saving lives and we're also bringing much closer that day when we can start that return to normality.
So thank you very much for doing the right thing. Thank you for the sacrifices you are making. Please keep doing it. For your own sake and your families sake and for the sake of everybody across the country. Thank you very much indeed for listening and I'm going to handover now to Fiona McQueen, our Chief Nursing Officer, and then to Professor Leitch, our National Clinical Director.
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