- 14 Jul 2020
Good afternoon, and welcome to today’s briefing.
I want to start by providing my usual update on the most recent Covid-19 statistics for Scotland.
An additional three positive cases were confirmed yesterday - that takes the total now in Scotland to 18,368.
A total of 616 patients are currently in hospital with the virus - either confirmed or suspected. That is 67 more than yesterday, and it includes a reduction of eight in the number of confirmed cases.
A total of 12 people last night were in intensive care with confirmed or suspected Covid-19. That is six more than yesterday, but the increase is all in suspected cases. As of now, although these things are always subject to change, there are only two patients in ICU in the whole of Scotland with confirmed Covid .
And since 5 March, a total of 4,131 patients who had tested positive for Covid-19 have been able to leave hospital.
I am glad to say that during the last 24 hours, no deaths were registered of a patient confirmed through a test as having Covid-19. The total number of deaths, under this particular measure, therefore remains 2,490.
Today is the sixth day in a row in which zero deaths have been registered. It is also the first Monday when no deaths have been registered since 10 March, which as you know is before lockdown started.
Tomorrow, of course, National Records of Scotland will publish their weekly report on Covid deaths, which uses a broader measurement than our daily figures.
And even as the daily numbers of Covid deaths decline to very low levels, it is still important to remember the overall impact the virus has had. My thoughts, once again, are with everyone who is grieving the loss of a loved one.
In addition, as I always do, I want to thank our health and care workers. The entire country is grateful to you for everything you do.
That of course, includes the care home staff who do us the honour of coming to Scotland from overseas to work here - including the 6-8% of our care home workers who come from other countries within the EU.
In my view, it is essential that care home workers are included in any scheme for post- Brexit work visas. The Scottish Government will continue to make strong representations on that point to the UK Government.
I also want to pay tribute today to staff in local authorities across the country. During this pandemic, council workers have continued to deliver essential services in very difficult conditions.
They have also worked closely with Scottish Government on vital issues such as housing homeless people, paying business grants, providing education hubs, and much, much more. In doing so, they have protected vulnerable people, and provided help for those who need it. That effort has been – and continues to be – hugely appreciated.
The Cabinet Secretary for Health will speak in a few minutes about our new “Right Care, Right Place” campaign, which encourages you to get help and treatment from the most suitable source. That could be from the NHS inform website, your community pharmacy, your GP - or a minor injuries unit or even accident and emergency. Then the CNO will say a few further words about face coverings.
Before then I have two issues I want to update you on. As you know, tomorrow, sees a further reopening or resumption of many important services. In fact tomorrow marks the biggest step so far out of lockdown and I’ll come back to that at the end of my remarks.
From tomorrow the tourism sector can reopen, as can venues such as museums, galleries and cinemas; indoor hospitality can start up again; hairdressing services resume; faith services can restart; and the childcare sector is fully open once again.
The Scottish Government is publishing two new pieces of guidance today - both of which can be found on our website - which are directly linked to those steps.
We have published guidance for places of worship, which provides information on how they can ensure the safe resumption of congregational services. The guidance provides detailed information on issues such as physical distancing, cleaning, and the maximum group size of 50 which we are currently permitting for services.
I know that the resumption of communal prayer and worship is something that has been long awaited by many people of all faiths. Today’s guidance will I hope be useful in enabling such services to take place as safely as possible from tomorrow.
The second piece of guidance – which is relevant to places of worship, as well as many other venues – gives advice to businesses and organisations about the collection and retention of customer, visitor and staff data.
The guidance applies to all sectors where there could well be a high level of interaction between people who do not know each other. That could be through close contact between staff and customers - like at the hairdressers - or because a relatively large number of people are in a confined space for long periods - such as in restaurants, bars or other settings, including places of worship.
The guidance covers a range of issues – for example it makes clear that employers should save staff rotas, and have up-to-date contact details for employees. They should also ensure that their booking systems and ticketing methods allow contact tracers to locate and notify customers.
It’s maybe worth stressing that data collection is not – and cannot be - a replacement for other safety measures. Other precautions will continue to be vital – such as physical distancing, ensuring a good air flow, and wearing face coverings if physical distancing is more difficult.
But data collection is very important. It means that customers or staff can be notified, if they come into contact with somebody who is subsequently found to have Covid. It is therefore crucial to our Test and Protect System. And it is one of the measures which we hope will build public and staff confidence, as more and more premises reopen.
So I would encourage all businesses to read today’s guidance, and to consider very carefully whether their plans follow its recommendations.
And I would urge all customers to accept, that if you want to go somewhere like a hairdresser, or a place of worship, or a pub, you will be asked to provide contact details. You should co-operate with anyone who asks you to do that. In fact, if you aren’t prepared to provide contact details, you probably shouldn’t go to these places. You could be putting others at greater risk.
Today’s guidance is in the best interests of businesses and of the public. All of us have a shared interest in making it work.
Because of that, the guidance on data collection is a good example of a wider point I make very regularly.
As we get out and about a bit more, there are some new constraints or responsibilities that we will sometimes have to accept as individuals, which will enable all of us as a society to enjoy a less restricted lifestyle.
Wearing face masks - as shops open up and as public transport services get a bit busier - is one example of that. So is providing contact details as indoor hospitality and other services reopen. Measures such as these will allow us to interact a bit more, while still protecting ourselves and each other.
So please, follow these rules. And remember more generally that sticking to the public health advice is more important now – as we try to open up more services – than it has been at any previous time.
The changes that come into force tomorrow are the highest risk changes so far since we started to come out of lockdown, because many of them involve indoor activity and we know that the risk of the virus spreading indoors in a pub for example is significantly higher than outdoors .
We also see that in some other parts of the world these kinds of places are already being shut down all over again, because transmission has increased. Just last night the state of California shut all its bars, cinemas, restaurants and museums all over again.
We here are perhaps more cautions in the timing of some of these changes than others. We have waited until infection levels are very low before opening up these kind so of places, but that doesn't remove the risk. And I want to be clear today what our very immediate risk is so we can all play a part avoiding it.
You might be hearing in the media today warnings about the scale of a second wave of Covid and I can assure you that is a risk we take very seriously and we absolutely must do everything we can to mitigate against it. But our most immediate risk is not a second wave, it’s the resurgence of the first wave. It has taken four painful months, but it is lockdown that has allowed us to stop the first wave in its tracks. By putting ourselves in lockdown, we put the virus in lockdown.
But I ask you to remember this, as we release ourselves from lockdown we also release the virus from it. So we have to work in other ways to keep it under control.
That is why we keep stressing our public health campaign - the Facts that we are asking everyone to not just remember, but live our lives by. It summarises the five key things all of us should remember in everything we do.
- Face coverings should be worn in enclosed spaces such as shops and public transport. Anywhere that physical distancing is more difficult you should wear a face covering.
- Avoid crowded places, whether indoors or outdoors.
- Clean your hands and hard surfaces regularly.
- Two metre distancing remains the general rule.
- and Self isolate, and book a test if you have symptoms. You can go to the NHS Inform website to book a test. Don’t wait to see if you feel better, book a test immediately and self-isolate.
By remembering those five basic measures, we don’t eradicate the risk completely because with a virus that is not possible, but we will minimise the risk of the virus getting out of control again as we take this next step, so I appeal to you for your continued cooperation in all of that.
My thanks to all of you for your cooperation and to all of you for listening.