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

Statement given by the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at a media briefing at St Andrew's House, Edinburgh on Wednesday 19 August.

Good afternoon, and thanks for joining us

I will start with the update on the COVID statistics for Scotland.

I can confirm that an additional 50 positive cases were confirmed yesterday.

That represents 0.9% of the people who were newly tested, and takes the total number of cases in Scotland to 19, 457.

The full health board breakdown will be available later, but the provisional information I have is that 15 of the 50 new cases are in Grampian.

10 are in Greater Glasgow & Clyde, 3 in Lanarkshire and 12 in Tayside.

Of course, we are dealing with known clusters in each of these areas.

I can also confirm that a total of 248 patients are currently in hospital with confirmed COVID. That is six fewer than yesterday.

And two people are in intensive care, which is one fewer than yesterday.

I’m also very pleased to say that yet again in the past 24 hours, no deaths were registered of patients who first tested positive over the previous 28 days.

However, we are reporting a death today that was registered on the 21 April which has not previously been included in the figures due to a delay in Public Health Scotland being made aware of the positive test. I am however advised that the deceased’s person’s family was aware that this was a COVID related death.

Taking account of that, I can confirm that the number of deaths under our daily measurement is now 2,492.

National Records of Scotland though has just published its weekly update. It can be found on the Scottish Government’s website. It includes deaths of people who have been confirmed through a test as having COVID - as our daily figures do - and also cases where COVID is a suspected or contributory cause of death.

The latest NRS update covers the period to Sunday 16 August.

Today’s update shows that, by Sunday, the total number of registered deaths with either a confirmed or a presumed link to COVID was 4,216. Of those, three were registered in the seven days up to Sunday. That is a decrease of two from the week before, and is the lowest weekly figure we’ve seen since the pandemic began.

One of those three deaths was in a care home, which is one fewer than the previous week.

These figures continue to speak of the progress we’ve made, over the past few months.

However, they also remind us that more than 4,000 people have lost their lives to this virus – and that people are still losing their lives to it.

Every single death is a source of grief and heartbreak, and my condolences again go to everybody who has suffered loss.

I also want to take the opportunity again to thank everyone who continues to work hard in a variety of different capacities to get our country through this difficult period.

The final statistics I want to update you on are today’s GDP figures.

They cover April to June of this year. And they show that, Scotland’s Gross Domestic Product fell by 19.7% in that quarter, but grew by 5.7% in June – as lockdown began to ease. Overall – though – the size of our economy is down 17.6% on February, the month before lockdown.

It is important to remember that although lockdown eased in June, large parts of the economy – for example most retail, hospitality and tourism - remained closed. So we would not expect to see a full recovery yet in these figures.

The figures do – however – reflect the scale of the economic challenge that we face. They also underline the need for continued government action, both Scottish Government and UK Government.

The Scottish Government has already allocated more than £2.3 billion to help businesses and protect jobs.

That’s in addition to important UK-wide measures– such as the Job Retention scheme.

We have also set out plans to support jobs and rebuild the economy, in our response to the reports of the Economic Advisory Group and the Enterprise and Skills Strategic Board.

That set out – among other things – our commitment to creating a Youth Guarantee of opportunities for young people. And we will – of course – set out further detail of our support, in our programme for government that we will set out to the Scottish Parliament at the start of September.

I have two further items I want to cover today. I will update you on the different clusters of cases we are seeing across the country. I will then set out our decision in relation to the restrictions which are currently in place in Aberdeen.

I’ll start with the cluster in Coupar Angus which is linked to a 2 Sisters food processing plant. My figures at the moment say that 17 cases have been confirmed as linked to this outbreak.

15 of those are employees of the factory, and 2 are people in the wider community. Contact tracing there is ongoing. These figures will be updated after the Incident Management Team meets later today and I would expect these figures to rise from those that I have reported now.

The factory has been closed down for two weeks period – and the 900 workers have been advised to self-isolate. A mobile testing unit remains on site, so that the whole workforce can be tested.

I also mentioned yesterday, cases involving school students who go to primary schools in Blairgowrie, Perth and Paisley.

The Deputy First Minister will say more about cases, where there is a connection to pupils or schools.

However, I can confirm that there are two new individual cases involving people at schools in Johnstone and Dundee.

The health protection teams are dealing with these cases and have written to the parents and carers of children in the relevant classes, advising them where necessary that their children should isolate. Again, these are situations that we are monitoring extremely closely.

That is also true of the cases which have been linked to secondary school pupils – such as the cluster in Lanarkshire and one in north east Glasgow. Let me remind you as I did yesterday these are community clusters, with links to schools, they are not school based clusters. The number of confirmed cases associated with the Lanarkshire cluster is now nine. That is a rise of one from yesterday.

All of these outbreaks are being looked at and followed up by our Test and Protect teams, and we are today publishing more detailed figures on the overall work Test and Protect has done during the last two months.

Those figures – which exclude cases that are still in progress – show that since 22 June, Test and Protect teams have contact traced more than 900 positive cases.

Of the people identified as requiring contact tracing only three individuals out of 925 could not be contacted. In other words, teams traced 99.7% of those positive cases which is quite a remarkable achievement.

Based on that work, the teams also traced more than 5,000 contacts. And they have been successful in contacting 98.8% of those individuals. Again, a very important achievement indeed.

That demonstrates the fantastic work that is taking place in Health Boards across the country. So I want to take this opportunity to thank all of the Test and Protect teams, who are helping to keep this virus under control.

I am particularly grateful – of course – to the team in NHS Grampian, who are helping to deal with the situation in Aberdeen. That is by some distance, the most significant outbreak that we’ve had in Scotland so far.

I mentioned earlier that 15 of the 50 new cases reported yesterday were in the Grampian area. On the latest figures available, a total of 398 cases have been identified in Grampian since the 26th of July.

226 of these are associated with the cluster linked to Aberdeen pubs, and 1141 contacts have now been identified from those 226 cases.

To give another indication of how effectively the Test and Protect team is working, more than 90% of cases and contacts identified in Aberdeen in the last three days alone have already been contact traced.

There is no doubt that these efforts – combined with the restrictions that were put in place – are now having an impact.

There is now some evidence that the original cluster - linked with bars and nightlife - is being contained.

However, we are also continuing to see a number individual cases and other smaller clusters in the city.

That is not necessarily unusual for an outbreak of this scale. But it is something we need to monitor very carefully – because these cases do not appear to be linked to the original outbreak.

In addition, the number of new cases in Grampian – over the week – remains higher than in other parts of the country, and continues to show some volatility. For example, the number I’ve reported today for Grampian is double the number that I reported yesterday.

So while the situation is undoubtedly improving, I’m afraid that we are not yet in a position to say that this outbreak is over or completely under control.

In particular, we continue to have some concern that the level of transmission not associated with the hospitality cluster remains elevated.

Again to give some illustration of that, as of today, the figure for that non-hospitality related case number remains in Aberdeen over 20 per 100,000 – by contrast, the seven day rolling average for the rest of Scotland is around 6 per 100,000.

It is therefore the Government’s view, based on clear advice from the Chief Medical Officer and National Clinical Director that it is not yet safe to lift these restrictions immediately.

I know this is disappointing - the council in particular for understandable reasons, is keen to see restrictions lifted, a view they expressed at a SGORR meeting I chaired earlier this morning.

We have also taken account of the view of the local Incident Management Team, that the main cluster is increasingly under control.

But, moving too quickly, with transmission levels as they remain just now, would – in our view – risk the hard won progress that people in Aberdeen have made.

As a result, it is our conclusion reluctantly, and this has been a difficult decision this week, that hospitality businesses, such as pubs, restaurants and cafés, will remain closed and the restrictions on household gatherings and travel will remain in place for a further week.

However, I do want to signal as much certainty as I can at this stage to people, businesses and the wider local economy about when they can expect to see this restrictions eased.

Assuming that the numbers continue on a downward trajectory, we would aim to start lifting restrictions from next Wednesday.

At this stage, we hope that this will begin with the re-opening of lower risk premises, such as non-licensed cafes, from next Wednesday.

We have also agreed this week to undertake a mid-week review on Sunday with a view - if possible at that stage - to confirming what I have just said about lower risk premises but also at that stage setting out a firmer timetable for the lifting of other restrictions. We will seek to do that as quickly as we consider it’s safe to do so.

I want to reiterate my thanks to people in Aberdeen for complying so well with these rules over the past couple of weeks. Nobody wants measures to remain in place for longer than is necessary. But it is really important at this stage in the pandemic that we continue to take a precautionary approach.

Our hope is that by sticking with these restrictions for a little longer – and ensuring that this outbreak is firmly under control – both the cluster and the more sporadic cases we’ve been seeing in Aberdeen, we can avoid further, more severe restrictions, in the future.

That said, I appreciate that this is exceptionally tough for everybody in Aberdeen but it is tough for the businesses community.

Therefore I’m announcing today a new £1 million support fund for businesses in Aberdeen.

The fund will be delivered by Aberdeen City Council. And it will provide grants of up to £1,500 for hospitality businesses that have been required to close.

A small part of the fund will also be used to help other businesses which – while they have been able to remain open – have felt the financial impact of the restrictions. For example – supply chain businesses, certain hotels or shops.

Aberdeen Council will administer the fund, which will open from next week.

And they will provide more detail on how to apply, in the coming days and of course we will continue to discuss with Aberdeen Council the impact of these restrictions and what more can be done to help.

Before I hand over to the Deputy First Minister and then the Chief Medical Officer, I want to just close by reminding everybody again of FACTS.

Reminding everybody again of the continued fragility of the position that we face. We’ve seen countries, countries quite close to us, Ireland for example, describing themselves now being at a tipping point and having to continue some lockdown restrictions for longer and that is an illustration of just how fragile the position all of us are in right now. And that makes decisions the Government has to take difficult, as we see today with the decision on Aberdeen, but it makes it the responsibility of all of us to do all of the right things, to play our part in keeping things firmly on the right side of a tipping point and not allowing them to be on the wrong side. It makes that responsibility even greater, so let me end with the usual ask to everybody to abide by the FACTS advice.

· Wear face coverings in enclosed spaces
· Avoid crowded places whether they’re indoors or outdoors
· Clean your hands and hard surfaces regularly.
· Two metre distancing remains our overall advice..
· and self-isolate, and book a test, if you have symptoms.

All of us abiding by these things, provide that first line of defence against this highly infectious and highly dangerous virus, so let’s all recommit ourselves to acting individually in that wider collective purpose that has served us so well over this past few months.

Thank you very much for listening to my slightly longer than normal presentation today.


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