Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: First Minister's speech 2 October 2020

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

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Good afternoon everybody, thanks for joining us.

As usual I will give a report of the COVID-19 statistics for today.

The total number of positive cases reported yesterday was 775.

That’s 12.6% of people newly tested, and takes the total number of cases now to 30,687.

324 of the cases were in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 164 in Lothian, and 102 in Lanarkshire. There will be a meeting today of the National Incident Management Team and they will be taking a look obviously at a range of issues but in particular at the current situation in Glasgow and Lanarkshire.

The remaining 185 cases were spread across 9 other health board areas.

I can also report that 175 people are in hospital – which is an increase of 21 from yesterday and 19 people are in intensive care, that’s 2 more than yesterday.

I also regret to report that 4 deaths have been registered of people who had first tested positive for Covid during the previous 28 days. The total number of deaths under that daily measurement is now 2,526.

And again, I want to send my sincere condolences to everybody who has lost a loved one and of course that particularly includes those who have lost a loved one in the last few days.

Obviously these numbers today, not just of cases, but perhaps more particularly hospital admissions, numbers in intensive care and the numbers of people dying, really should remind us that this resurgence of Covid is something we have to take very seriously.

Now, I’ve got several issues I want to briefly update on today.

Firstly, as I often do on a Friday, I want to draw your attention to an announcement made last night.

The Scottish Government has now added Poland and Turkey to the list of those countries subject to quarantine restrictions. 

We have also added the three islands of the Caribbean Netherlands – Bonaire, Saba and Staysha.

That means from 4am tomorrow, people travelling to Scotland from these places must self-isolate for 14 days, upon their return.

Madeira and the Azores will be removed from the list of places which are subject to quarantine restrictions. However, if you have arrived from those places in the past two weeks – or if you arrive later today or tonight – you will still have to self-isolate for 14 days.

These changes are yet another reminder that levels of the virus – in any country or any area – can change quite rapidly. And when they change, our quarantine rules often change as well.

So please – and this is especially important as we approach the October holidays – think carefully right now about any unnecessary travel.

In fact, if possible, avoid unnecessary overseas travel. And remember that the fact that a country is exempt from quarantine requirements when you go there, does not necessarily mean that it will still be exempt when you come back.

Protect Scotland App

The second update relates to the Protect Scotland app.

I’ve said before that the app is not a magic solution – it doesn’t replace the need for the hard work being done by our test and protect teams.

But it is a really important additional tool in tackling Covid, and it is already proving its worth.

More than 1.3 million people have downloaded the app. In the past three weeks, more than a third of the people who have tested positive have been app users. And during that time, more than 2,000 contacts have been advised to self-isolate through the app. And these are people who might not otherwise have been identified.

However there are three points that I want to stress which might make the app more useful.

The first applies to everybody who currently has it.

If you test positive for Covid, you will receive a code which you are then meant to enter into the app. Please make sure that you do that, because it is necessary for you to do that for the app then to automatically notify people you have been in close contact with.

Now that might sound very basic and obvious, but we know that at the moment not everyone who has the app, and who receives a positive test result, is actually doing that.

Now, enough people are doing it for the app to be making a difference – but it would obviously be better if everyone entered the code when they test positive. So please remember to do that.

The second point is that we issued an update to the app this week which some people may wish to take advantage of. It allows the app to be paused, without Bluetooth being disabled in your phone.

Now, let me stress first of all, that I don’t want people to pause the app when you are going about your day to day activities – because that would remove the point of having it.

But this is a feature that is especially useful for some groups of people, in particular perhaps, clinical staff in jobs that often involve being within 2 metres of other people, but where significant measures are in place to reduce the risk of infection - for example wearing medical grade protective equipment.

We are also looking at other improvements that can be made to the app. For example we are working really hard just now with NHS England and the NHS in Northern Ireland on linking up Protect Scotland with the apps in those countries, to support people who travel, to make these different apps interoperable. We are also looking at whether the age limit for use of the app can change – right now you have to be over 16 and we’re looking to see whether it will be possible to reduce that in the future.

The final point I want to stress is that if you haven’t downloaded the app yet, and you are able to do so, please do it.

It takes less than 2 minutes. Your data is kept entirely secure and anonymous. And it is a simple but it is a really powerful and important way in which we can all play our part in the struggle against Covid.

Lastly, today, I want to stress again how important it is that all of us self-isolate when we are asked to do so.

Obviously I can’t do that today without first addressing the issue of Margaret Ferrier - the SNP MP who travelled by train to London and attended the House of Commons after taking a test when she should have been self-isolating - and who then travelled back to Scotland by train after being told that her test was positive.

Margaret is a friend of mind, so everything I am about to say is obviously with the heaviest of hearts. And of course, I wish her a speedy recovery from Covid.

But none of that changes the fact that her actions were reckless, dangerous and completely indefensible, and I feel very angry on behalf of all you.

Every single day I stand here and I ask you to make horrendous sacrifices as part of our collective efforts against Covid.

It’s really important, whether you agree with me or not, whether you love me or loathe me, that you can have confidence in the advice that I give you.

That means me being clear that the rules apply to everyone - regardless of who you are and regardless of what your political allegiance is.

Trust me it’s one of the easiest things in the world in politics to call for tough consequences when one of your opponents breaks the rules. That’s not hard for any of us.

The litmus test though is whether you’re prepared to do the same when it’s one of your own breaking the rules.

And in these abnormal times, when everybody has been asked to difficult things, I think that is more important than ever.

That’s why the SNP whip has been withdrawn from Margaret - and that is the most serious sanction a party can impose on an elected representative. I have also spoken to her directly and made crystal clear to her that I think she should now resign as an MP.

Now, people contact me and say, why don’t you just sack her. This is a point I have to make clear - I don’t have the power to force an MP to step down - no party leader has that power. But I can make my views known, difficult though it is and I have done so and I hope she will come to the right decision, in the interests of the overall integrity of these vital public health messages.

And I want to emphasise again why it is so important to self-isolate.

We are launching a media campaign actually this evening – which has been planned for several days – to stress the importance of self-isolation.

Essentially, if you have any one of the symptoms of Covid, you should start to self-isolate immediately, and you should book a test. You can do that through the NHS Inform website.

The symptoms, as a reminder, are a new continuous cough, a high temperature, or a loss of – or change in – your sense of taste or smell.

When you get your test result, if you test negative, and don’t have Covid, you can stop self-isolating at that point.

However if you have Covid, you need to self-isolate for a further 10 days, starting from the day on which you took your test.

If you are identified as a contact of someone with Covid – either by a test and protect team, or by the app – then you must self-isolate for 14 days.

You need to self-isolate for longer than someone who has tested positive. That’s because if you get Covid, your infectious period will start a few days after the infectious period of the person you got it from.

And the key point I want to stress today – for obvious reasons – is that self-isolation is not something anybody can or should see as an option, as something that is voluntary.

If you develop symptoms, or if you are identified as a contact, you must self-isolate immediately. Don’t think you can go to the shops one last time – let alone travelling any longer distances.

And you must self-isolate completely - that means staying at home, and not going anywhere else.

The reason is simple. If you have been in touch with someone who has Covid during their infectious period, there is a chance that you will also have Covid, even if you don’t yet have symptoms. And self-isolation is one of the most important things we can all do to ensure that we are not, unwittingly sometimes, transmitting the virus to anyone else.

So this is essential. It is a tough thing for any of us to be asked to do but it is an essential thing that all of us must abide by.

And if we are asked to do it – no matter who we are, and no matter what our circumstances are - we should all do it.

It is inconvenient, it is tough particularly for those on low incomes who might lose money when asked to self-isolate, that is why we are introducing the £500 support payment.

And it is why we are working with local authorities to ensure there is practical help available to people for things like food deliveries, and details of all of that are available also on the NHS Inform website.

But the reason we provide help for people to do the right thing, is because right now doing the right thing for all of us is so important.

So please, please – self-isolate and book a test if you have symptoms of Covid. And self-isolate for 14 days if you are identified as a contact. It is vital to our collective efforts against the virus.

Now, I have stressed that particular point today, I was always going to be stressing that point today but it has particular added resonance given the circumstances I have already alluded to. But before I finish, and hand over to Jason I also want to provide the usual reminder of the other key public health guidance that we are asking everybody to follow.

None of us should be visiting each other’s homes right now – except for very specific purposes such as childcare or caring for a vulnerable adult.

When we do meet with others – outdoors, or in indoor public places – the maximum group size allowed is 6, and those 6 people should not come from any more than two households.

We should avoid car-sharing if it is possible.

Work from home if we can.

Download the Protect Scotland app, as I’ve already talked about.

And finally, all of us should remember FACTS –

  • Face coverings
  • Avoid crowded places.
  • Clean hands and hard surfaces
  • keep a Two metres distance from other households.
  • and of course Self isolate, and book a test, if you have symptoms.

I know I say this every day but I feel a particular responsibility to say it today. I know how hard it for everybody to follow these rules right now, and I know how angry people feel when they see others not following these rules, but we have been asked to stick with all of these rules for the collective wellbeing of the country and for each and every one of us - so please do that.

Do that for yourselves, your families, your loved ones and for your community as a whole.

And my thanks, my deep and sincere thanks, to everybody who is making really tough sacrifices right now in the interests of that collective effort.

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