Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: First Minister's speech 16 October 2020

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

Good afternoon, and thanks for joining us.

I will start with the usual run-through of today’s COVID statistics.

The total number of positive cases reported yesterday was 1,196. That is 16.9% of people newly-tested, and the total number of cases now stands at 45,232.

416 of the cases were in Greater Glasgow & Clyde, 309 in Lanarkshire, 161 in Lothian and 104 in Ayrshire & Arran. The remaining cases were spread across 9 other health board areas. Only Shetland today has no reported cases.

I can also confirm that 629 people are currently in hospital, that is an increase of 27 since yesterday. And 58 people are in intensive care, that is 6 more than yesterday.

I’m also very sad to report that in the past 24 hours, 9 additional deaths were registered of patients who had first tested positive over the previous 28-day period. That means that the total number of deaths under the daily measurement is now 2,594.

Again, I want to send my deepest condolences to all those who have lost a loved-one to this virus at any point during this pandemic, but obviously of course, in particular to those who have more recently been bereaved.

There are a few items I want to briefly cover today before the Chief Medical Officer and I take questions from the media.

As I often do on a Friday, I will shortly give an update on the quarantine requirements for international travel.

I will then say a word about the opening of two new walk-through testing sites.  And finally, I want to say something about this weekend.

Before that, though, let me start by saying a special word about schools.

Obviously many schools will soon be returning from the October break while others are just now preparing to start the half-term.

I wanted to take this opportunity today to say a very big and a very heartfelt thank-you – to teachers, to other school staff, to pupils and to parents across the country.

I know that you have faced many challenges over the past few months. I also know that, because of the restrictions, the October break will not be all that you might have hoped that it would be.

But we must not lose sight of what you have achieved during this first half term.

It is down to your efforts and your ability to adapt in extremely difficult circumstances that schools have been able to return.

As a result, the vast majority of pupils are now able to have the classroom, and the wider school experience that was lost back in the Spring. And I don't think we should underestimate that it is a real achievement that young people have been able to have that normal schooling experience for the last number of weeks that they lost out on for much of this year.

So that, I think, is something important, and something positive in this difficult period for all of us to mark and reflect on.

Now, I know there will be further challenges ahead; I think that is almost inevitable.

And I don't want to stand here today and give any sense that I am under-estimating how difficult it will have been so far, not least for teachers.

However, I just wanted to put on record my thanks to all of you for the really important work that you’ve done and, so that you know, that in spite of all of the difficulties it is hugely appreciated, and it is very important for, not just the wellbeing of our children and young people now, but I think, for their future prospects as well.

So thank-you to everybody for that.

Let me now turn to my first update of today. That concerns the list of countries that are subject to quarantine requirements.

We announced last night that Italy, San Marino and the Vatican City state will now be added to the list of countries with quarantine requirements.

That means that, from 4 am on Sunday, people travelling to Scotland from these places must self-isolate for 14 days on their arrival or return here.

We’ve also announced that Greece and all of the Greek islands, apart from Mykonos, will now be removed from the list.

So from Sunday people arriving from Greece, or a Greek island other than Mykonos will no longer have to self-isolate.

However, if you have arrived from these places in the past two weeks – or if you arrive later today or tomorrow – you will still be required to self-isolate for 14 days.

These changes are just an example of how quickly levels of the virus in any country or area – here at home and of course overseas – can change.

That is nature of an accelerating global pandemic. And that, of course, underlines why we are continuing to advise all of you against any non-essential travel overseas right now.

That's not an easy or a welcome thing to be doing, I know, but it is a reflection of the uncertainty and volatility that all of us continue to live through.

My second update for today is about the opening of two additional walk-through testing centres.

One of those sites opened in Dundee city centre today. Another will open in Sighthill in Edinburgh tomorrow. 

These add to the seven walk-through centres already open – two in Glasgow, one already in Edinburgh, and one each in Aberdeen, St Andrews, West Dunbartonshire and Stirling.

A number of others are due to open in the coming weeks.

Many of these centres are within walking distance of student campuses – deliberately so – and so are particularly useful for our student populations. But it is important to note that they are open to all members of the public and you can book a test by going onto the NHS Inform website should you experience any of the COVID symptoms.

There are of course a few points that I would ask everybody to remember if you experience symptoms and book a test.

Firstly, please don’t use public transport to travel to any testing centre.

If you don’t have a car and if you’re not able to walk or perhaps cycle to a testing centre, please book a home testing kit through NHS Inform.

In addition, you should start to self-isolate from the moment you start feeling the symptoms of COVID.

You shouldn’t wait to get a test or to get your test result back before you start self-isolating.

That means staying at home with the sole exception of, if you need to, going to a testing centre for your test.

Finally today, I want to say just a word or two about this weekend.

I appreciate – I think probably we all feel this – that it's at the weekend when the temptation to bend the rules a bit will be at its strongest, whether that’s about meeting up with others, or going round to somebody else's house, a member of your family or a friend.

I also know that for football fans, and this weekend in particular perhaps for Celtic and Rangers fans, that temptation might be even greater.

Tomorrow, of course, sees the first of these Glasgow derbies to be played without fans in the stadium.

It is also taking place at a time when we have additional restrictions on household visits and hospitality.

So with that in mind, I want to underline a few key points, ahead of the match.  And I should say that both clubs and the SPFL are also emphasising these points to supporters, and I’m very grateful to them for that.

The first thing to say is that you mustn’t go round to somebody else’s house to watch the match.

None of us – not just football supporters but none of us – should be going into each other’s homes at the moment unless it is for an essential purpose such as childcare or looking after a vulnerable person.

And I’m afraid – and I know that this statement is possibly a controversial one in Scotland, I readily acknowledge that – I’m afraid that watching football, no matter how essential I know it might feel to some, does not fall into that ‘essential’ category.

In addition, people should not be gathering outside or around the stadium.  There will be nothing to see there so there is no point at all in turning up.

Finally, please don’t travel in order to try to watch the match.

I know there might be a temptation to try to get around local or national restrictions in this way.  But it’s really important that you don’t do that.

In general right now, people in the central belt should be avoiding travel to other parts of Scotland, and all of us should be avoiding travelling to areas in England that have high infection levels.

So please, don’t travel to other parts of Scotland or across the Border just in an attempt to watch the match in a pub.  It’s really not worth the risk.

Nobody likes the fact that these restrictions have to be in place but they are vital to protecting all of us, and keeping us safe. 

So please comply with the restrictions. By doing that, you will be playing your part in helping us to get the virus under control. And you will be helping to hasten the day when we can all watch and enjoy the things we love doing – whether that’s football or the many other things that we find ourselves not able to do normally right now.

I’ve spoken about some of the restrictions as they relate to football but I want to close today with my usual reminder to everybody – because this is not just about football supporters, this is about all of us right now.

So let me give a general reminder of all of the rules and guidelines. 

As I said earlier, except for very specific purposes like childcare or caring for somebody who is vulnerable, none of us should be visiting each other’s homes right now.

That is really tough. I feel that just as all of you find that tough – not being able to see family and friends at their homes, or in our homes. But this is perhaps the single most important thing that all of us can do to limit the risk of transmission, to make sure it doesn't jump from one household to another. Because we know, once it gets into a household the risk is that it infects everybody in that household.

When we do meet up outdoors, or in indoor public spaces where they are still open, we shouldn’t meet in groups of any more than 6 and those 6 people should be from no more than two households.

Please only car-share if it is essential to do so. And if you must car-share, remember to take sensible precautions – wear face coverings and keep the windows open to allow ventilation.

Work from home if you can – that has been our consistent advice and that remains the advice. My plea to employers is to facilitate your workers working from home if it is at all possible.

Download the Protect Scotland app if you haven’t already done so. That’s an important way of extending the reach of Test and Protect.

And finally, remember FACTS

  • Wear face coverings when you are out and about, particularly in enclosed spaces. The law mandates that. As of today that law extends to staff canteens. From Monday it will be extended to communal areas like corridors in workplaces but already in shops and public transport it is the law to wear a face covering. But try to wear one wherever you are when you are out and about because it does help protect against you passing on the virus or other people, if they're wearing face coverings, passing it to you.
  • Remember to avoid crowded places – indoors in particular, but even outdoors where there can be a risk of transmission.
  • Clean your hands regularly and thoroughly, and clean hard surfaces that you're touching, because we know that from hands and also from surfaces, that’s a way of the virus spreading from one person to another.
  • Keep two metres distance from people in other households because the farther apart you are, the less risk there is of the virus hopping from one person to another.
  • And as I've already covered today, self-isolate and get tested if you have any of the symptoms. Remember, those symptoms to look out for are a new continuous cough, a fever, high temperature, or a loss of or change in your sense of taste or smell. With any of these, please act immediately to isolate and book a test, don't hang around and wait to see if you feel better in a day or two.

All of these rules take a lot to remember, they take even more effort to abide by every day, but it's really important now that we do.

We are in a precarious position, many countries across the world are facing the same challenges right now.

The position we are in requires some really tough restrictions from government, such as not going into other people's houses, pubs and bars, not being able to open as normal.

But our best defence, our first line of defence against this virus – and this is as true today as it was back in the spring – is me, you and everybody else complying with all of this basic hygiene advice.

As I said yesterday, and it’s important to remember as we head into winter we're all feeling, I think, more and more fatigued and in despair at this pandemic and everything it’s doing to our lives, but remember, we are not powerless. None of us are powerless; by following the FACTS advice, all of us can strike a blow against this horrible virus, so please remember to do that.

Thank you again for listening.

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