Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: First Minister's speech 21 July 2020

Statement given by the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at the media briefing in St Andrew's House, Edinburgh on Tuesday 21  July.

Good afternoon, and welcome to today’s briefing.

I want to start with the usual update on the most recent Covid-19 statistics for Scotland.

An additional 22 positive cases were confirmed yesterday - that takes the total now in Scotland to 18,474.

These cases are all being looked into carefully, as you would expect, and steps taken to trace contacts and break chains of transmission.

A health board breakdown will be available later as normal. However, the provisional information I have at this stage is that the majority of these cases are in Lanarkshire, and at least some of them are likely to be connected to the outbreak at the Sitel call centre that has being doing work for NHS England.

I will chair a Scottish Government resilience meeting later this afternoon to consider the latest situation and any further steps that may be required and of course we will keep you updated within the course of today and again at the briefing tomorrow.

I can also report that a total of 618 patients are currently in hospital with the virus - either confirmed or suspected. That is 51 more than yesterday, and it includes an increase of 4 in the number of confirmed cases.

A total of 4 people last night were in intensive care with confirmed COVID, which is an increase of 1 since yesterday.

There were also 16 people in ICU with suspected Covid-19. That is 9 more than yesterday.

It is maybe worth saying that although we currently report both suspected and confirmed Covid patients, or in ICU, that has – as some of you have noticed - caused significant fluctuations in the daily figures.

That is partly because most patients in hospital who are over the age of 70, are tested for Covid every four days or so.

These patients are often counted as “suspected Covid cases” until their results come back, even if there is no reason to believe that they have the virus. From tomorrow, therefore, we intend to report only on confirmed Covid cases in intensive care and in hospital, which I think gives a more accurate picture of the situation.

This is part of a wider review of how we report information which I will say more about later this week.

As we go into the next stage of dealing with this pandemic, it is important that the information we have been providing gives you - the public - the most reliable and comprehensive picture of how the virus is behaving.

Finally, I am glad to say that during the last 24 hours, no deaths were registered of patients confirmed through a test as having Covid-19.  The total number of deaths, under this particular measure, therefore remains 2,491.

This is, of course, very welcome news - but the overall figure for deaths is a reminder of how many families have been deeply affected by this virus. My thoughts are with everyone who is grieving a loved one.

In addition, as I always do, I want to thank our health and care workers. The entire country is grateful to you for the work that you have done and continue to do.

The Deputy First Minister will speak in a few minutes about the reopening of schools.

The Chief Medical Officer will then talk about yesterday’s news in relation to vaccine trials, and will confirm that Covid testing is now available for children with Covid symptoms who are under the age of 5.

This is a step which should prevent families from having to self-isolate unnecessarily if young children develop symptoms – something which will be increasingly important as childcare resumes.

Before their remarks, I want to talk about two different points. First, I want to say a bit more about the figures for new cases that we have seen in recent days.

Since the last media briefing on Thursday there has – rightly – been quite a lot of attention paid to the fact that we reported more than 20 new cases on both Saturday and Sunday, and of course I have just reported an additional 22 positive cases were confirmed yesterday, and I have already mentioned the cluster of cases identified in the call centre in Lanarkshire

Those figures are, of course, a sharp reminder of something I think you have heard me saying on almost a daily basis - that the virus is still circulating in Scotland, and it is also a reminder that if we allow it to, it will spread rapidly in workplaces or social settings, if we give it the chance to do so.

That said, a great deal of work is being done - not least through test and protect - to understand all of these cases and follow up contacts.

All necessary steps are being taken to break the chain of transmission.

In total, more than 25,000 tests were processed across the two days at the weekend when we reported more than 20 cases. And even though the number of cases then was larger than usual, they are still at a relatively low level and so new cases can be assessed in a lot of detail.

Health Protection Scotland can tell us if new cases are clustered, and if any particular patterns are being identified.

Where care homes are involved, we can take necessary precautions. And of course Test and Protect staff are tracing and testing contacts for all cases that are identified.

Any rise in new cases is unwelcome – but as we have always said, the virus is still out there so, as lockdown eases, cases are likely.

The job of our public health teams and test and protect, supported by Government, is to step in and break the chains of transmission wherever possible.

I want to express my gratitude and appreciation to the public health teams and test and protect staff across the country.

But the point I also want to make, is we all have a part to play in keeping this virus under control.

So things such as physical distancing and washing hands and surfaces, face coverings – and indeed all of the elements of our FACTS campaign -  continue to be crucial.

As life starts to feel a bit more normal than it has done for months, there is a danger that we are all capable of succumbing to it, or dropping our guard.

We should all stop right now and think about whether that might be true in our own behaviours, and if it is, resolve to tighten up again

Remembering all of the basic measures - summarised through our FACTS campaign - becomes more and more important as we see more people, and have more indoor meetings.

So at all times, as you go out and about, please make sure that you avoid creating a bridge which allows the virus to cross from one household to another. By doing that, all of us can continue to protect each other, and to stop the spread of the virus.

The second point I want to cover today relates to wellbeing. At last Thursday’s briefing, I mentioned the work we are doing to support the mental health of people who have had Covid, and who have been in intensive care.

We are also making sure we provide support for our health and social care staff. Many of them have faced the most testing and stressful conditions of their working lives over the last few months. They have responded magnificently to incredibly challenging circumstances.

There is already a national wellbeing hub, which provides online help and support for NHS and care staff. It can be found at 

Today we are also launching a dedicated phone line. I will read out the number for the line in a few moments.

It allows health and care workers to talk to a team of Psychological Wellbeing Practitioners – who will provide a sympathetic ear for callers, while also providing advice, and referring people on to local services if needed.

The line is open from today, for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It is available to all health and social care workers. So if you are stressed or anxious - and it would not be a surprise if that were true - and need support, you can call 0800 111 4191. That is 0800 111 4191.

The line will be open for at least a year, and I would encourage any health and care workers to use it if you need help, or just want a sympathetic ear. It is an important additional way in which we are trying to make support available to you, given everything you are doing to protect and care for us.

I will hand on to the Deputy First Minister in a moment, but I want to end – as I usually do – by reminding you again of FACTS.

Those are the five key health measures that we need everyone to abide by, and all of us should remember in everything we do, if we are to keep this virus under control.

They are even more important now – as we go to more shops, restaurants and pubs, and as we meet each other indoors – than they have been over the last four months.

So please remember that:

  • Face coverings should be worn in enclosed spaces such as shops and public transport
  • Avoid crowded places
  • Clean your hands and hard surfaces regularly
  • Two metre distancing remains the rule, and
  • Self isolate and book a test if you have symptoms of Covid

Don’t wait to see if you feel better if you have a new cough or fever, or have a change in your sense of taste or smell. Book a test.

If we all remember those 5 basic measures to give ourselves the best possible chance to keep the virus under control, all of us can minimise the opportunities for Covid to spread.

And we can stay safe, protect the NHS, and save lives.

This is a moment I think for all of us across the country to take stock to ask ourselves if our behavior perhaps has been eased a little bit too much in recent days, and to resolve to follow all of the advice

So thank you, once again, to everyone who is doing the right thing, and sticking with these rules. By doing that, we can continue to suppress the virus, and we can continue to move out of lockdown together.

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