Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: First Minister's speech 22 October 2020

Statement given by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at a media briefing in St Andrew's House, Edinburgh on Thursday 22 October 2020.

Good afternoon, let me start as usual with the daily report on COVID statistics.

The total number of positive cases reported yesterday was 1,712.

That represents 19.8% of people newly tested and 9.2% of the total number of tests that were carried out.

584 of the new cases were in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 457 in Lanarkshire, 192 in Lothian and 151 in Ayrshire and Arran. 

The remaining cases were spread across 9 other health board regions, only the Western Isles didn’t have any cases reported yesterday.

The total number of cases therefore now stands at 52,615.

I can also report that 928 people are currently in hospital – which is an increase of 55 from yesterday, and 74 people are in intensive care, that is 1 more than yesterday.

But I regret to say that in the past 24 hours, a further 17 deaths were registered of patients who first tested positive over the previous 28 days. 

The total number of deaths under that daily measurement is therefore now to 2,670.

That reminds us again of how devastating Covid can be and I want again to convey my deepest condolences to everyone who has lost a loved one.

Later today, the Scottish Government will publish our latest estimate for the R number in Scotland – the R number as you know is the number of people, who on average, and I stress on average,  will be infected by one other infectious person.

Based on the most up to date figures available – but I would remind you that there is always a lag time between introducing new measures and results from those measures showing up in our statistics – but based on the most up to date figures we can use the R number in Scotland is again estimated to be above 1, perhaps as high as 1.5 at this stage.

That fact – together with the statistics for today – illustrates again why we took the decision yesterday to extended the temporary restrictions for a further week, to help get the R number back below 1 and also emphasises the importance of the new Strategic Framework for tackling Covid that we are publishing tomorrow and I will say more about that in the daily update then.

Today I want to briefly update on three other points.

Firstly I want to highlight, because it is important, but it might otherwise get overlooked tomorrow, that the Office of National Statistics will be publishing tomorrow the initial results of the Covid infection survey in Scotland.

The survey estimates how many people in private households were infected with Covid over a two-week period of time.

The results published tomorrow will cover the two weeks up until last Friday.

We had originally expected that these results would only become available in November.

But because levels of participation have been high, they will be published earlier than expected. I want to thank everyone who has taken part.

The sample size for the survey will increase further in the weeks and months to come.

As that happens, we will be able to get even more detailed information, such as the characteristics of people who are testing positive.

We will also find out more about the number of people who test positive for antibodies, which indicates how many people are likely to have had the virus previously.

So if you get asked to take part in the survey, and if you feel you are in a position to do so, I would encourage you again to volunteer because you are helping us deepen our knowledge and understanding of the virus and giving us an additional tool to track the spread and prevalence of the virus and tailor our response to it accordingly.

The second point I want to highlight is that tomorrow’s paper will include details of our new testing strategy. That paper of course being the Scottish Government’s strategic framework document.

One key part of that, is our plan to increase testing capacity to 65,000 tests a day over the rest of this year, by the end of this year.

To achieve that, we expect Scotland’s share of the UK Government’s lighthouse laboratory capacity to increase by at least a further 10,000 tests a day.

Some smaller partner laboratories -  including some commercial partners – will also be able to process more than 3,500 tests a day.

And most significantly, our NHS laboratories, which only handle tests from Scotland, will increase their capacity by a further 22,000 tests a day.

The increase in NHS capacity will be driven by the establishment of three regional hubs. These will be based in Grampian, Lothian, and Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

Contractors are already carrying out building works for these hubs. Installation of equipment is progressing at pace, and so is staff recruitment.

So we expect these to be up and running within the next few weeks. 

We plan to maximise use of these Hubs by ensuring that they undertake all of our routine care home testing.

NHS labs already undertake around 10,000 care home tests a week of the total of somewhere between the 30,000 and 40,000 that are done every week, but that volume will increase significantly as this new NHS capacity comes on stream.

That will ensure that we get results from care home tests back more quickly that we sometimes do now.

And it shows how our increased capacity will be able to be used to protect those most at risk – such as people in care homes – as well as enabling the rapid testing of people with symptoms. 

Residential outdoor education centres

The final issue I want to briefly cover today relates to some additional support that has been announced this morning for residential outdoor education centres.

Our curriculum for excellence rightly emphasises the importance for young people of spending time outdoors.

Outdoor education centres across the country give tens of thousands of schoolchildren the opportunity to do that – and also to experience activities which they might not otherwise have a chance to enjoy.

But we know the outdoor education sector has had a really tough time, as many people have had, as a result of the pandemic.

It was closed throughout lockdown, and residential stays at outdoor centres are still not allowed.

In addition, even in order to allow non-residential activities to take place, centres have had to make great efforts to create a safe environment for young people and staff.

So I am pleased today that we have been able to announce an additional £2 million of support to help residential outdoor education centres.

I know that this won’t address all of the difficulties the sector faces. But I hope it will provide some additional reassurance to managers and staff in these centres.

And I also hope that, by allowing more centres to operate more effectively, the funding will also help young people across the country still have that experience of outdoor learning and activity.

These were the main issues I wanted to briefly cover today. The Chief Nursing Officer and I will now take questions from the media.

But before I do that let me just round my remarks to a close, as usual, by reminding everyone of the key current rules and guidelines in place. 

If you live in Lothian, Lanarkshire, Forth Valley, Ayrshire and Arran and Greater Glasgow and Clyde, you should not travel outside the health board area that you live in unless you have a clear need to do that. And people in the rest of Scotland should not travel to any of these 5 areas unless they have a clear need to do that.

None of us in any part of Scotland unfortunately should be visiting each other’s homes at the moment except for very specific exceptions – such as childcare or looking after a vulnerable person.

And of course when we do meet people from other households – predominantly outdoors, but sometimes in indoor public places like cafés - the maximum group size we should be meeting in is 6, and those 6 people should not come from more than  two different households.

In addition, please avoid car-sharing if you possibly can.

Work from home if you possibly can and employers please allow your workers to do that if possible.

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

And finally, remember:

  • Face coverings when you’re out and about
  • Remember to avoid places with crowds of people.
  • Remember to clean your hands as often as you possibly can and clean hard surfaces more regularly than you would usually do because the virus can hang about on them.
  • And remember to keep two metres distance from people from other households that you are coming into contact with.
  • And remember lastly to self-isolate immediately, and book a test, if you experience a fever, high temperature, or a new continuous cough or a loss of or change in your sense of taste or smell. These are the symptoms of COVID that we are asking everybody to be very alert to.

By following all of these rules, each one of us as individuals plays our part in stopping the virus transmitting and keeping levels of it or in some cases, getting levels of it, back to safer levels. And if we all do that then we minimise the need for additional restrictions on businesses or on our activities as individual citizens. So it is really important that we all act in the way that limits the ability of this virus to transmit.

It is a virus, like so many viruses, that thrives on human contact, so it will spread the more opportunities we give it by coming together with other people and it will die and find it difficult to spread if we take every opportunity to limit our interaction with other people. That’s really tough for human beings who want to be with our friends and our family and interact normally with those we love. But that is the way we stop this virus spreading and I hope enable all of us to get back to a greater sense of normality sooner rather than later.

Thank you very much for listening.

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