Good afternoon, and thank you for joining us .
I will give the daily of statistics for COVID.
I can report that the total number of new positive cases reported yesterday was 1,429.
That represents 16.4% of people newly tested, the total number of positive cases is now 42,685.
537 of the new cases are in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 327 in Lanarkshire, 239 in Lothian and 92 in Ayrshire and Arran.
The remaining cases were spread across 8 other health board regions. Only Orkney and the Western Isles did not have new cases reported yesterday.
I can also confirm that 570 people are currently in hospital – that is an increase of 43 on the number I reported yesterday.
49 people are currently in intensive care, that’s 14 more than yesterday.
I’m also very sad to report that in the past 24 hours, 15 deaths were registered of patients who first tested positive over the previous 28 days.
That means that the total number of deaths, under the measurement we use for the daily figures, is now 2,572.
Now confidentiality means that I can’t ever go in to detail about the people behind the statistics I report every day but I do want to point out this to you today, half of the 15 deaths that I’ve just reported are of people under the age of 80 – a small number of them are of people under the age of 60. Please do not ever think that this virus only poses a risk to the lives of the very elderly – it poses a risk to all of us and I’m asking everybody again to take and treat that risk extremely seriously.
I can also report that National Records of Scotland has just published its weekly update, that as you will recall includes cases where COVID is a suspected or contributory cause of death.
Today’s update shows that by last Sunday, the total number of registered deaths linked to COVID, under that wider definition, was 4,301.
25 of those were registered last week, which is 5 more than in the week previously. 17 of the 25 deaths were in hospital, 7 in care homes, and 1 in a home or in an other non-institutional setting.
Once again, I want to send my deepest condolences to all those who have lost a loved one to this virus throughout the course of the pandemic and of course that is particularly the case to those who have recently lost someone and who are currently in that very acute stage of grieving.
Now tomorrow, Parliament has to review the restrictions we imposed on household visits three weeks ago. I will cover that issue and others in a video statement to a virtual meeting of the Scottish Parliament tomorrow.
As you might expect, we are unlikely, very unlikely to announce any changes or easing of the current rules on household gatherings.
I will however say a bit more to parliament tomorrow about new rules on face coverings, and about our options once the current two-week period of additional restrictions ends on 25 October.
For today though, the main issue I want to highlight relates to travel.
For many people, the October half term is approaching, and indeed in some parts of Scotland, it has already begun.
So I want to highlight some general guidance on travel, and I’m also going to provide one much more specific recommendation.
The first piece of general guidance relates to the five health board areas in Scotland that currently have additional restrictions on hospitality, because they have especially high rates of COVID just now.
And to remind you these areas are Lothian, Lanarkshire, Forth Valley, Ayrshire and Arran, and Greater Glasgow and Clyde.
If you live in one of these five health board areas, we have already asked you not to travel unless you very need to – and not to leave your health board area unless it is really necessary.
And we’ve also asked people from the rest of Scotland, not to travel to any of these five central belt areas unless they really need to.
As I said last week, this guidance does not stop you from taking an October half-term break if you have already booked it and you don’t want to cancel. If you are taking such a break or if you are already on such a break, please be very careful and please follow all of the rules whilst you are there.
But this guidance is intended, very firmly intended, which is why I’m putting so much stress on it today, to minimise travel as much as possible between the central belt, and other areas of Scotland. So please ask yourself how necessary your journey is, before deciding – for example - to go on a day trip to another part of the country.
In fact, my general advice for everyone at the moment across the country is to think very carefully about whether you need to travel at all.
And if you must travel, if your trip is necessary then travel carefully and safely.
For example make sure you wear a face covering on public transport, that is the law at the moment and also remember to physically distance from other passengers as much as you can. And avoid car sharing if possible.
The advice to think carefully before travelling is especially important in relation to areas with high rates of infection.
And so of course that advice applies – not just to travel to and from the central belt of Scotland and the more general advice I’ve just given to everybody but it applies to travel to and from parts of England with high levels of infection.
We are currently advising against non-essential travel to the parts of England which are classed as very high or high alert areas under England’s new three tier system. And I’m asking people from these areas not to travel to Scotland either.
Several of these areas are seeing even higher levels of infection than we are currently seeing in central Scotland and we will make sure we keep the information on which areas are covered by this guidance updated on the Scottish Government website.
But in addition to that general advice, there is a specific issue I want to cover today and I take no pleasure in doing this but it’s important that I give this advice and make a very specific recommendation to you.
Blackpool, a place that many Scots love and like to visit, particularly at this time of year, many of us have happy childhood memories of going to see the Blackpool illuminations - this is one of the places currently classed by the UK Government as a high risk area.
And I need to advise you that trips to Blackpool are now associated with a large and growing number of COVID cases in Scotland.
We indeed now have an Incident Management Team in Scotland that has been set up to look specifically at cases associated with Blackpool.
And I can tell you that in total, in the last month, and these figures are rising right now so the figure I’m about to give you will undoubtedly already be out of date – the most up to date figure I can give you is that in the last month around 180 people in Scotland with COVID, reported that they had recently been in Blackpool.
Now let me be clear, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they got COVID during their trip, as you heard us talk about in relation to hospitality it’s not possible to be absolutely certain where someone actually picked up the virus but Blackpool is being mentioned in Test and Protect conversations, far more than any other location outside of Scotland.
And to take the past week in more detail, 344 people who have spoken to Test and Protect teams after contracting COVID, reported some sort of travel outside of Scotland. 252 of those had travelled somewhere else in the UK. Of those 252, now remember this is in the last week alone, well over a third – 94 in total - had been in Blackpool.
So my specific advice is this. If you were thinking about going to Blackpool and you haven’t booked yet, then please do not go this year.
Even more specifically – because we know this is an issue – and I want to be very clear about this - do not travel to Blackpool this weekend to watch the Old Firm match in a pub. If you do that you will be putting yourself and you will be putting other people at risk, please do not do that this weekend.
And if you otherwise, not related to the football have already booked a trip; and you cannot cancel it without cost; and are determined to go – then please, please think very carefully indeed about how you travel, and what you do when you get there.
For example quite a lot of people who have contracted COVID, and who have also been to Blackpool, have travelled by coach. We understand that is very common, particularly at this time of year. Now again, that does not mean that they absolutely necessarily got the virus on the coach because we can’t be certain about that.
But if you have to travel to Blackpool by coach – or if you travel by any form of public transport - then try to maintain physical distancing, and make sure that you wear your face covering throughout the journey.
And once you arrive and I know this is really difficult, don’t spend too much time indoors – and don’t, if you can avoid it, spend much time in pubs and bars and other hospitality venues. Because doing that significantly increases your chances of getting the virus.
I know that many people look forward to trips generally but to Blackpool in particular in the autumn, and that for some of you – and I know that many people fall in this category it’s almost an annual ritual. But I’m asking you, if you can avoid it, please do so this October and if you do go there, if you have to go there – please be very careful.
My last point on travel relates to a letter I received yesterday from the First Minister of Wales and is very relevant to what I’ve already been talking about. The First Minister of Wales is seeking agreement between the four UK nations on travel restrictions where necessary from high prevalence areas in one UK nation to lower prevalence in others. I want to be clear today, that I back the calls from the First Minister of Wales and I’ll be writing to the Prime Minister today to seek urgent talks on that issue.
I also support the First Minister of Wales call for another COBRA meeting in early course to discuss collectively between the four nations what further steps we can all take at this stage to suppress the virus.
Now, I’ve spoken at some length today about our guidance and recommendations on travel and that is for reason because it is important and restricting travel right now as much as we possibly can is another I know unwelcome but very important way in which we can all try to reduce and minimise the spread of the virus. But of course there are other important steps we must all take to reduce our own personal risk of getting the virus or of passing it on to others. Including if we are in the younger healthier age groups ourselves, potentially passing it on to others who are much more vulnerable.
So please do not visit each other’s homes at the moment – except for the very specific exemptions for childcare or looking after a vulnerable person, stay out of the homes of other families right now, this is our single most important way of stopping the virus jumping from one household to another. I know it is incredibly hard but it is incredibly important.
When you do meet - outdoors, or in a café for example, which are allowed to stay open during the day to allow people somewhere that they can have contact with other – remember that the maximum group size is 6 and that should be from no more than two households. And that’s the rule that applies outdoors or in any indoor public place.
Only car-share if it is essential as I said earlier on. And if you must car-share, wear a face covering and try and keep the windows open.
Work from home if you can. That advice has never changed in Scotland – this is an important moment to underline it. If it is at all possible to, work from home. And employers across the country, please allow your workers to do that.
Download the Protect Scotland app, if you haven’t already done so.
And finally, remember the rules are encapsulated in FACTS – the difficult but fundamentally quite simple things we can all do to minimise the risk of transmission.
- Wear face coverings whenever you’re out and about but particularly in any enclosed spaces.
- Avoid places where crowds of places come together.
- Clean your hands obsessively if necessary and clean hard surfaces after you touch them.
- Keep a two metre distance from people in other households when you are coming in to contact with them.
- And self-isolate, and book a test, if you have any of the symptoms of COVID and remember yesterday all of the information we gave yesterday about support for self-isolation – you can find that on the NHS inform and Scottish Government websites.
It is by following all of this advice and following of these rules however hard that it is and I know that it is hard, that we will collectively help to suppress the virus again.
We are as I said yesterday at a really critical moment again – many countries across the world are – we see more and more countries now dealing with a second wave and having to impose new restrictions, we will not shy away as the Scottish Government from doing what we think is necessary to keep the people of Scotland as safe as possible but every single one of us can play a part in this, please follow all of these rules, don’t think it’s okay just to breach them on the odd occasion because the time you breach them may be the time the virus is close to you and may spread from you to somebody else or from somebody else to you. And the chain of transmission that could set off could result in you becoming like the too many families across Scotland right now that are grieving the loss of a loved one.
So I’m sorry to be so blunt with you but I think it is important at this juncture not to shy away from these messages and to ask everybody right now to rededicate themselves to this collective effort to keep COVID under control and to stop it taking lives unnecessarily or making people ill unnecessarily.
So thank you once again to everyone who is doing that.
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