Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: First Minister's speech 20 October 2020

Statement given by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at a media briefing in St Andrew's House on Tuesday 20 October.

Good afternoon, and thanks for joining us. I will start with the usual report of the daily COVID statistics.

The total number of positive cases reported yesterday was 1,456.

I would point out that this includes some catch up of test results delayed over the past few days which you recall I spoke about yesterday.

The number today represents 19.9% of people newly tested, and 11.4% of the total number of tests that were carried out.

And again you will recall me explaining yesterday the different - and we think more accurate - approach we are now taking to calculating this positivity percentage.

I’m will continue to report both the old and new measures this week, but from next week, I’ll report only the new - which is the latter of the two figures I gave today - 11.4%

500 of the new cases are in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 393 in Lanarkshire, 198 in Lothian and 116 in Ayrshire and Arran.  The remaining cases are across 9 other health board areas. The Western Isles was the only health board area not to report a new case yesterday. Although Orkney and Shetland only have 1 each reported today.

The total number of cases in Scotland since the start of the pandemic is now 49,164.  I can also confirm that 824 people are in hospital currently – which is an increase of 70 from yesterday. And 69 people are in intensive care, which is 8 more than the figure reported yesterday.

I also regret to say that in the past 24 hours, 15 further deaths have been registered of a patient who first tested positive over the previous 28 days. And that takes the total number of deaths, under that measure to 2,625.

That reminds us of the devastating impact that this virus is continuing to have on families across the country. I want to again to convey my condolences to everyone who has lost a loved one – and in particular to those who have been bereaved in recent days.

I am joined today by Shirley-Anne Somerville, the Social Security Secretary, and also by Jason Leitch, the National Clinical Director.

Shirley-Anne will talk in a moment about funding for free school meals, and also about additional support through the pandemic for people who are financially insecure.

Jason will stress the importance of self-isolation, and of getting a test as soon as you experience any of symptoms of Covid. That’s a hugely important point, and because it is so important it is one that I also want to emphasise to you today.

If you have symptoms of Covid, you might be tempted to wait for a day or two to see if those symptoms pass – turn out to be nothing. In a way that’s natural - it’s what we often tend to do with other illnesses. I know it’s what I usually tend to do but it is important we don’t do that right now with Covid because this virus is different.

We want and need you to come forward for a test as soon as you have any of the symptoms. So even if you are not sure if your symptoms necessarily mean you have the virus, err on the side of caution and come forward straight away.

That’s important because it will mean you will know as quickly as possible whether you’ve got Covid or not and you can stop self-isolating if you don’t have the virus - but also it’s important because it helps to ensure that Test and Protect begins the contact tracing process as quickly as it can.

When Test and Protect traces your contacts if you test positive, they are tracing the places you’ve been and the people you’ve seen in the 48 hours before you started to feel your symptoms, because that’s when it is deemed you are at your most infectious.

So any delay in going for a test makes it harder for Test and Protect to reach these people and ask them to self-isolate, before they potentially spread the virus on to other people.

So if you have symptoms, a fever, a high temperature, a new continuous cough or a loss of or change in your sense of taste or smell, then please self-isolate immediately and book a test straight away. Don’t hang around, do it immediately.

I have two other things I want to update on. The first relates to the £40 million of support we are making available to businesses affected by the current restrictions to hospitality.  That support includes a £20 million grant fund which is administered by local authorities. Local authority websites were updated this morning, and it is now possible for businesses to apply for grants at any time in the next two weeks.

I would encourage all eligible businesses to apply. By sticking to the new restrictions, in either closing your business if you are in the central belt or operating under restrictions if you are in the rest of the country, you are helping us to tackle Covid and helping us to stop it spreading so fast. And so it is really important that we help you to do that. The grant fund is one way in which we are seeking to do exactly that.

I will be saying more about the hospitality restrictions tomorrow – and I will be doing that after the Cabinet meets tomorrow morning to take stock of the situation and decide on our next steps.

The second issue I want to briefly touch on, is the latest position in relation to our testing figures. You will recall that the number of new cases we reported on Sunday was artificially low, because some test results took longer to come back than would normally be the case. That is because they were diverted from the Glasgow lighthouse laboratory to other lighthouse laboratories across the UK.

We expect that virtually all weekend samples will have been reported by tomorrow - indeed many of them are in today’s figures - and so by that point we should have a clear idea of the total number of new cases that have been identified in recent days.

I mentioned yesterday briefly that I had also been made aware of an additional issue in recent days concerning how individuals are notified of their results through the UK wide system. When tests are processed, results are often sent to individuals automatically by text message. Some results are also sent by e-mail, and there has been no suggestion of any issue with email notifications.

We understand that the system for text notification was slower than usual over the weekend.

But I am pleased to say that this issue now seems to have been resolved, and we are not currently aware of any backlog. So individuals should be notified of their results, as soon as these test results have been processed.

We will continue to work with the UK Government on testing, and we will continue to do anything and everything we can to help to address any backlogs and other issues. That includes of course expanding NHS Scotland testing capacity – something which as well as helping us meet our own objectives for testing will also help the UK’s lighthouse network.

Fundamentally, and this is a point I want to stress. I said it yesterday and it is important to underline it today. The testing system is working well - but we will continue to highlight and seek to resolve any delays or backlogs when they do occur.

That is important for the vital work that Test and Protect is doing.

And I would again stress the importance that you self-isolate until you get your result back. So as soon as you have symptoms and get tested you should self-isolate and keep self-isolating until you get a negative test. Of course if your test is positive you have to complete your self-isolation. But that is the really important way to try to avoid passing the virus on to other people.

Self-isolation is a key element of our rules and guidance. And you can tell that because I’ve talked about it at length today, and why Jason will say more about it later. But I want to close as usual by emphasising other key parts of what we are asking people to do right now to slow down the spread of the virus.  

For those who live in the five health board areas of Lothian, Lanarkshire, Forth Valley, Ayrshire and Arran and Greater Glasgow and Clyde – we’re asking you not to travel outside your own health board areas unless you really need to do so. And people elsewhere should not travel into these areas unless they really need to do so.

None of us anywhere in the country should be visiting each other’s homes at the moment, except for very specific purposes – such as childcare or looking after a vulnerable person. That is a tough restriction, possibly the toughest of all the restrictions but it is a really important way in which we can help stop the virus from jumping from one household to another.

And when we do meet people from other households - outdoors, or in places that are open such as public indoor places, like cafés - we should meet in groups of no more than 6, from a maximum of two households.

In addition, only car-share with people outside your household if it is essential. Work from home if you can. And if you are an employer please facilitate your staff working from home wherever possible.

Download the Protect Scotland app, if you haven’t already done so.

And finally, remember to -

  • wear Face coverings when you’re out and about, the law now makes that mandatory in a number of indoor places but wear a face covering whenever you’re out and about
  • Avoid crowded places.
  • Clean hands regularly and remember to clean hard surfaces because the virus can hang about on those
  • keep Two metres distance from people in other households because that also minimizes the ability of the virus to jump from one person to another
  • and Self isolate, and book a test immediately, if you experience any of the symptoms.

These are the ways in which all of us can play our part as individuals in controlling the virus.

It helps to keep ourselves safe, avoids the risks of us contracting the virus, it helps to keep others safe because it minimizes the risk of us passing it on to others and of course it helps to protect the NHS so that the NHS is capable and able to care for and treat all those who need its services.

And ultimately all of us doing all of these things helps to save lives and I think we have been reminded today and at this time as strongly as we were at an early stage of this pandemic of that central objective to save as many lives as possible from this virus.

So thank you for everything you are doing.

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