Good afternoon, and thanks for joining us today.
I’m going to start with the usual run through of COVID-19 statistics, however, there is some important context to the day’s figures that I’m going to have to immediately attach to them.
An additional 70 positive cases were confirmed yesterday.
That represents 2.7% of the people who were newly tested and reported yesterday and takes the total number of cases to 22,749.
Let me give the context though. Today’s numbers, both the overall results reported through the UK-wide system and the number of positive cases, are lower than they have been in recent days and we believe that they are not yet complete.
We understand other parts of the UK are experiencing similar issues this morning and we are seeking to resolve these urgently.
However, it’s important that I am frank that we now have a very serious concern that the backlog of test results being faced by the UK lab network - which the Glasgow Lighthouse Lab is part of - is starting to impact on the timeous reporting of Scottish results.
We’ve been raising these concerns with the UK Government in recent days and over the weekend the Health Secretary managed to resist a move to limit access to testing slots at mobile testing unit and regional testing centres.
However, this apparent delay in turnaround is causing us concern and therefore we will be seeking to escalate these discussions with the UK Government over the course of today.
Let me stress that we are keen to play our full part in addressing these issues and finding solutions to them urgently. But we need the UK Government to share the full scale and nature of the issues they are facing and the impact that they are having on Scotland so that we can collectively, and very quickly, find solutions.
We will give an update, including any changes to today’s figures, as soon as possible.
I can also confirm that 264 patients are currently in hospital with confirmed Covid, that is five more than yesterday, and seven people are in intensive care which is the same number as yesterday.
I can also confirm that in the last 24 hours, no deaths have been registered of patients who first tested positive over the previous 28 days and the total number of deaths, under this measurement, is still 2,499.
I think it’s worth reflecting on the sad fact that is was exactly six months yesterday, that the first death from Covid-19 was announced in Scotland.
That death, and each and every one we have seen since then, has been a source of grief and heartbreak to families across the country. And, therefore, I want again to pass on my condolences to everyone who has lost someone.
I am joined today by the Health Secretary and the Chief Medical Officer and we will all take questions shortly. But first of all I want to focus on the continuing numbers of high cases we have seen over the weekend, and therefore the vital importance of the new rules that are coming into force in Scotland today.
However, let me start with a thank you.
More than 900,000 people have now downloaded the new Protect Scotland contact tracing app.
As you will recall we launched that last week, and that allows people to receive an automatic notification, if someone they have been in close contact with gets Covid.
You are not told the name of the close contact – but you do get a notification, together with information and links to advice on self-isolation.
900,000 downloads is a really important milestone. It is already enough for the app, we think, to really make a difference.
But it stands to reason that the app will make even more of a difference, the more people who use it. So I would encourage everybody across Scotland who hasn’t yet done so to download the app and to encourage friends and family to do so.
We are especially keen to encourage uptake among students who are starting at university or college this week, and who are perhaps especially likely to come into contact with new people whose names and contact details they might not yet have.
So if you work in the further and higher education sector, or have children or relatives who are starting the new term, please encourage them to download the app.
Fundamentally, we want as many people across the country as possible to download and use it.
Downloading is very straightforward – it takes less than 2 minutes to do. You can find the app by visiting the Protect.Scot website, or by searching on the apple store, or google play.
The app doesn’t require you to give any confidential information; it is completely anonymous in how it works; and it helps to keep you and family and your community safe. So if you haven’t done so, please download it now.
The app is particularly important because the figures for new cases we saw over the weekend reinforce once again that Scotland, like the UK and like many countries across Europe - is in a very precarious situation.
On Saturday, we had 221 new cases reported, and yesterday, we had 244.
The percentage of people testing positive has also been increasing – yesterday it was above 3% - just three weeks ago, it was consistently around or below 1%.
We know that we have seen a significant rise in cases in recent days in Lanarkshire, which emphasises again the importance of the decision announced on Friday, to restrict private indoor gatherings across North and South Lanarkshire.
So if you live in either of those council areas you should not, at this stage, be visiting any other households at all.
The restrictions for North and South Lanarkshire are, of course, the same as the ones that were already in place in Greater Glasgow – in Glasgow City, Renfrewshire, East Renfrewshire, East Dunbartonshire and West Dunbartonshire.
We hope these restrictions will help reduce transmission in these areas, and will play a part, given how populous these areas are, in lowering our overall national figures. There will be a meeting later today to discuss the up to date position in Greater Glasgow and Clyde.
However, although numbers in Lanarkshire and Greater Glasgow and Clyde have been of particular concern, most parts of Scotland have seen a rise in cases in recent weeks.
As I indicated earlier, Scotland is not unique in this regard. Many countries in Europe are seeing similar.
Transmission is higher than we can be comfortable with right now, and that is the case across the country.
And the wider international picture is also a concern. Many countries in Europe are seeing an increase. And globally, the World Health Organisation has reported that yesterday saw a record number of new Covid cases around the world.
So all of that helps to explain why we have changed the nationwide rules on meeting up with other households. We believe that we need to act now, to act quickly to reduce the chances of an even greater increase in cases in the autumn, and as we head into winter.
So from today onwards, a maximum of six people, from a maximum of two households, are now permitted to meet together. That rule applies outdoors – including in private gardens – as well as indoors. And by indoors, of course, we mean people’s own homes, but also pubs and restaurants as well.
Children under the age of 12 don’t count towards the limit of six, but they do count towards the limit of two households.
I indicated on Friday that we were seeking some further advice on whether it was possible, in some limited circumstances, to exclude children from the household limit as well and we will report back on that as soon as possible.
It’s also worth stressing that the two household limit means that a meeting of just three people wouldn’t be allowed under these rules, if those three people all come from different households.
I’m aware that this restriction is a really tough one, but restricting the number of households who can meet is important in reducing transmission rates.
The virus wants to find new households to infect. So we have to do what we can to limit the opportunities for it to do that.
Now, two additional measures also take effect from today. They take effect in hospitality settings such as pubs, cafes and restaurants.
Firstly, it is now mandatory for customers in those settings to wear face coverings when they are not eating or drinking – for example when you go into the premises and go to your table, or when you stand up to move around to go to the bathroom, for example.
And from today, staff who work in hospitality premises – with some limited exceptions – must wear face coverings as well. That’s been in guidance so far. As of today it is now mandatory.
These changes, as I said before, are not welcome for any of us. But the numbers of new cases we saw over the weekend, and the numbers of new cases we’ve seen in the past couple of weeks, emphasise once again why we need to act firmly now.
New cases in Scotland have been more than trebling every three weeks, in the last few weeks. That pattern is not sustainable as we move further into autumn and then into winter.
So if we all act collectively now, our hope is that we can stem that increase. So please, I’m asking everybody to stick to these new rules – of 6 people, and 2 households - as a necessary way of trying to stem the spread of the virus.
I’m asking, also, everybody to please download the Protect Scotland app, if you haven’t done so already. This is a simple but it is a very powerful way of all of us helping to keep the country safe.
And as always, I’m asking people to remember the other measures that can reduce the risk of passing the infection from one person to another or from one household to another.
And that advice is of course encapsulated in the FACTS rules.
These are the five rules that can help all of us keep the virus under better control.
So please remember:
• Face coverings should be worn in enclosed spaces
• Avoid crowded places, whether indoors or outdoors
• Clean your hands and clean any hard surfaces that you're touching
• keep to Two metre distancing from people in other households
• and Self isolate, and book a test, if you have symptoms.
If all of us stick to these tough restrictions and remember that important advice, then working together we can help to get the virus under control again.
It is worth remembering at this six month point into this pandemic that - as the Deputy Chief Medical Officer said on Friday - it won’t last forever. But while we’re in this we must all act collectively to keep ourselves, each other, the health service safe and ultimately to save lives.
We are still in this together and it is only by working together that we can get through it. So thanks to all of you for joining us today.
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