Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: First Minister's speech 15 September 2020

Statement given by the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at a media briefing in St Andrew's House, Edinburgh on Tuesday 15 September.

Good afternoon, and thanks for joining us again today.

I will start with the usual run through of the daily statistics with apologies in advance. Parts of my briefing today are a little bit technical because it’s about how we report figures and while it might seem a bit difficult to follow today, what I’m going to report to you, particularly around people in hospital, is in the interest of making these figures more accurate and more transparent as we go into the next phase of tackling the pandemic.

But I can report firstly today, that the total number of positive cases reported yesterday was 267. This represents 3.6% of people newly tested.

101 of those cases were in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 59 were in in Lanarkshire, 53 were in Lothian and 13 were in Ayrshire and Arran.

The remaining 41 were spread amongst the other seven mainland health board areas.

However to be clear, and this is the point I want to stress today, these, as indeed our daily figures always are, are test results that were reported yesterday.

Because of the backlog in the UK wide system that I referred to yesterday, this figure will include – a bit more than it normally would - results from swabs taken over the past few days.

We hope that the backlog of the past few days will have worked its way through the system shortly.

And just to be clear, to reassure you, for the purposes of our trend analysis, tests are looked at by day of the sample, not just by date of reporting, to ensure that we are tracking the increase in cases accurately. From that analysis of course, right now unfortunately, we do know that cases are rising .

Now as I said yesterday, I do have a concern about the capacity constraints right now within the UK wide system - for Scotland in recent days, just to be clear, this has not been an issue of access to testing slots, regional testing centres or mobile testing units but instead it’s been one of access to sufficient lighthouse laboratory processing.

And it has been this that has led to a backlog in the system and longer turnaround times for tests than we want to be the case.

Now as this is a UK wide system, we are not able to resolve this on our own. And the issues are impacted by demand elsewhere in the UK.

To that end, I had a conference call, a constructive conference call, last night with Matt Hancock, UK Health Secretary and Dido Harding, who is head of the UK testing system, to seek firstly assurances that Scotland is and will continue to get fair access to the UK wide laboratory capacity and also to discuss how we can resolve these issues. I hope to see improvement in next few days, but of course I will continue to provide updates.

I also, and this takes me into the slightly technical bit of the briefing, I want to provide some context before providing today’s update for the number of people in hospital with Covid.

Now, if you cast your mind back a couple of weeks now I think if you are one of the regular viewers of this briefing, I indicated then we were looking at how we report on numbers of people in hospital.

Under that measure, the one we have been using up until now, lots of people are classified as being Covid patients, even if they have recovered from Covid and are now being treated for a condition that is unrelated to it.

That old measure was providing accurate information at the peak the epidemic of this first phase back in the year when there were 1,500 Covid patients in hospital.

But as the pandemic has progressed, we have been reporting a higher number of hospital cases than is probably justified and that’s the issue I alluded to a couple of weeks ago.

For example in late August, Scotland officially accounted for almost one third of the hospital patients with Covid in the UK – despite having one twelfth of the UK’s population, and a relatively low incidence of the virus at that stage.

To try to ensure we are no longer counting patients who no longer really have Covid, we are from now, and I’ll report under the new measurement today, but then regularly from tomorrow, we’re moving to a new definition.

From now on, we will only count patients who first test positive for Covid during their current stay in hospital, or in the two weeks before their admission.

In addition, we will stop classifying them as Covid patients, for statistical purposes after 28 days in hospital - or 28 days after the date of their positive test, whichever is later.

This new measure will be an improvement on the old one – but it is important for me to point out that it will not be absolutely perfect.

The effects of Covid sometimes require hospital stays of longer than 28 days, and so a small number of patients with Covid may not be captured by the measure I’ve just outlined there

I have therefore asked Public Health Scotland to develop analysis about patients who unfortunately end up spending longer in hospital.

But overall, this new measure will give us a better picture both of the current situation in hospitals, and crucially, given the phase of the pandemic we are going into, it will be more sensitive to the changes in hospital admissions caused by new cases. So it will enable us to more accurately reflect and report any increase in hospital admissions over the next period.

So, under the old measure, I would be telling you, and I am going to tell you, that 262 patients are in hospital. That is two fewer than yesterday.

But that is the last time I’m going to give you that old measure, instead I’m going to move to the new and more accurate measure and I will use that solely from tomorrow onwards and under that measure, as of today there are 48 patients in hospital under that more narrow but more accurate measurement and we will be able to track it better now the increase in hospital admissions from here on in.

And using the new definition, I can report, there are six people are in intensive care. Under the old definition I would have been reporting seven in intensive care so clearly the change in measurement doesn’t have the same impact towards numbers in intensive care as it does on broader hospital numbers. .

And finally, in terms of my daily statistics update, I regret to have to report that in the past 24 hours, one additional death has been registered of a patient who first tested positive over the previous 28 days.

That means that the total number of deaths, under this daily measurement, is now 2,500.

That total serves again to remind us of the impact of this virus and why we can never, ever be complacent about the risks it poses and I want again to pass on my condolences to everybody who has lost a loved one – including of course everyone who is grieving as a result of the death that was registered yesterday.

There are a couple of other issues I want to address before Jason Leitch and I take questions from the media as normal.

The first is just to report here, we made this public last night but I thought it was worth reporting, that we had a meeting yesterday as I indicated earlier yesterday we would, to discuss the current position in Greater Glasgow and Clyde

And the good news is, that early indications suggest that the restrictions in place in Glasgow City, East and West Dunbartonshire, Renfrewshire and East Renfrewshire might be helping to slow down the increase in new cases. So that at this stage is positive.

But the number of new cases in these parts of Greater Glasgow and Clyde remains very high and is still increasing, all be it, we think, at a slower rate than would’ve been the case without these restrictions being in place. So taking all of that into account and the local authorities for these areas were present at the meeting yesterday. We agreed that the existing restrictions should remain in place for a further week and then they will be reviewed again at that stage.

That means people in these areas, Glasgow City, East or West Dunbartonshire, Renfrewshire and East Renfrewshire should not visit other households at all.

Those same restrictions now also apply as of last Friday, in North and South Lanarkshire,

In all of these seven local authority areas, you should not host someone in your home – unless it is for essential care purposes. And you should not visit someone else in their home – again unless it’s for care purposes or delivery of shopping to a venerable or elderly person and that is regardless of where they live. So I live in Glasgow City, I can’t have people in my home but equally I can’t go and visit my parents for example, who live in Ayrshire and Arran which is not one of these affected areas.

The second issue I want to cover today relates to the Test and Protect service.

We are aware that some fake callers are pretending to work for Test and Protect , and are trying to con people by claiming that payment is needed for a test.

Sadly, this reminds us that there are always a small number of people, a tiny minority , but never the less they’re there, who will try to exploit any situation they can to defraud people. And it is truly and utterly despicable particularly at this time of crisis that we are living though.

But in light of it, I wanted to take the opportunity today to remind you and ask you to remind others that you know, that Covid tests are free, and will always be free for those who need them.

Nobody from Test and Protect will ever ask you for financial information –they will never ask you for your bank or credit card details – and they will never try to sell you anything.

The only thing Test and Protect staff will ask you about, is where you’ve been and details of the people you have been in contact with.

Genuine contact tracers will often also first send you a text to let you know that you will shortly receive a call from NHS Scotland.

Callers will always introduce themselves and state the reason for their call. They will know your name. They will ask you for details of people you have come into contact with, in a relevant time period. They will tell you that you will receive further information by e-mail or post.

And they will always call from the same number - 0800 030 8012 – and they will give you the option of calling back on that number if you need to verify the service.

There is a lot of useful information about this on the Coronavirus sections of the Trading Standards Scotland website, and the Advice Direct Scotland website.

You can report any concerns about calls you have received to Advice Direct Scotland. And if you are unfortunate enough to have been the victim of a scam, or an attempted scam, you should contact the police on 101.

Fundamentally, if a person claiming to be a contact tracer is asking about things that aren’t necessary – in particular your bank details or computer passwords – then put the phone down straight away because they are not a legitimate contact tracer .

As I mentioned earlier, if you do get phoned by a legitimate contact tracer you have the option of phoning them back - on 0800 030 8012 - if you want to verify the call.

Genuine contact tracers will only ever ask about your movements, and details of the people you have been in contact with. This is a small minority of people, hopefully it won’t happen to any of you watching, but I thought it was important to take the opportunity to stress what will and will not be asked of you if you do get one of these calls, so that together we can make sure these people who attempt theses scams, these despicable people don’t get anywhere in Scotland.

The final point I want to make just to round off, is to remind you of the new rules which came into force yesterday, and of our other important public health guidance.

As you should all know, unless you live in one of the areas I’ve already spoken about where stricter restrictions are in place, no more than six people can now meet up together – and those six people can come from no more than two households.

Children under the age of 12, do not count as part of the total of six, but they do count towards the total for households. I said on Friday I would look at further advice on whether we could give greater flexibility for children and I hope to give the outcome of that later this week.

That rule – six people and two households – applies indoors and outdoors: in homes, pubs and restaurants, and in outdoor spaces such as parks and private gardens.

So please make sure that you are not breaching those limits.

This step – limiting the number of people and households you interact with – is a tough one and it’s really not an easy one or a welcome one at all. But it is a really vital step in helping us to keep the virus under control by limiting the interactions that we know are most likely to cause it to spread.

Please also, if you haven’t already done so, download the Protect Scotland app if you can. I know that last time I looked this morning 950,000 of you have already done that, but we want as many people as possible to do so.

It is very quick and easy to do. It’s a simple but very powerful way of all of us as individuals helping the country collectively.

And as always, and this will be my final comment, remember all the other things and we all need to do to try to minimise the risk of Covid spreading and all of that of course is encapsulated in FACTS. The five golden rules to try to minimise the spread.

• Face coverings should be worn in enclosed spaces
• Avoid crowded places.
• Clean your hands and hard surfaces regularly.
• keep Two metres away from other households
• and Self isolate, and book a test, if you have symptoms.

So thank you for bearing with me though what I know was a bit of a technical briefing today. Occasionally they will be like this because we are trying as we are go through the pandemic to make sure that we are reporting information in a clear, accurate and as transparent way as possible.

As we go through different phases sometimes that means changing definitions that we have used previously and so explaining that takes a bit of time and hopefully over the next period, these things will become much clearer for all of us.

Thank you for listening.

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