Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: First Minister's speech 25 May 2020

Statement given by the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at a media briefing in St Andrew's House, Edinburgh on Monday 25 May.

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Good afternoon everyone. Thank you for joining us.

I’ll start, as I always do, with an update on the key statistics.

As at 9 o’clock this morning, there have been 15,156 positive cases confirmed – which is an increase of 55 since yesterday.

A total of 1,269 patients are in hospital with COVID-19 – 849 of them have been confirmed as having the virus, and 420 who are suspected of having it. That represents a total decrease of 60 from yesterday but it includes an increase of 4 in the number of confirmed cases.

A total of 40 people as of last night were in intensive care with confirmed or suspected COVID-19. And that is a decrease of 4 since yesterday.

I am also able to confirm today that since 5 March, a total of 3,572 patients who had tested positive for the virus and been hospitalised have now recovered and have been able to leave hospital.

Unfortunately though I also have to report that in the last 24 hours, 3 deaths have been registered of patients who had been confirmed through a test as having COVID-19 – and that takes the total number of deaths in Scotland, under that measurement, to 2,273

That figure of course, should be treated with some caution.  Although deaths can now be registered at weekends, registration numbers on both Saturdays and Sundays are usually relatively low. So I would ask you to bare that in mind when considering today’s figures.

And I once again want to make the important point that these numbers represent unique and irreplaceable individuals whose loss right now is being grieved by many. And I want to send my condolences to everyone who has lost a loved one to this virus.

And let me also thank – as I always do and always will - our health and care workers. They continue to do an extraordinary job in the most difficult of circumstances. And my gratitude and the gratitude of everyone in the Scottish Government continues to be with them.

The main focus in today’s statement, is really to give you some advance notice of announcements and developments that you can expect in the week ahead, and also to emphasise once again, very strongly, why sticking to the current rules for now matters so much.

On Thursday, as you know the Scottish Government will formally review – as the law requires us to do - the current lockdown restrictions. As we indicated last week when I set out the four phase route map out of lockdown, our current expectation is that we will be able to announce a relaxation of some of those restrictions.

Initially, any relaxation will focus mainly on outdoor activities. And I would expect any new rules to start to come into force from Friday of this week.

Tomorrow, we will also set out more detailed information about how our Test and Protect system will work. That is Test, Trace and Isolate.

And tomorrow we will also publish our Transport Transition Plan, which will provide details about how public transport can operate safely while the virus is still in circulation.   And that will include a clear expectation that people using public transport will use face coverings. Both of those areas are of course very important and increasingly crucial as we start to ease some of the lockdown restrictions.

Throughout the week we will also be publishing guidance – which is currently being finalised with industry bodies, trade unions and public health experts - for different sectors of our economy.

And of course in advance of the rules on social interaction changing in any way, we will publish clear guidance on what it means for you and how you interact with each other – from of course, a safe physical distance of course.

So in summary, on Thursday there will be a clear decision on whether or not we are lifting some restrictions; and entering Phase One of our path out of lockdown and we will give you careful information as we go through this  week about what rules are changing, what measures are in place to help you and what you should be considering as you decide what you can and can’t do in the days ahead.

And let me be clear that any change to the rules is not yet in place and I don’t want people waking up on Thursday morning and assuming that they’re in place straight away. If we assess that we are able to make this change and start to ease any restrictions then any changes will start to take effect from Friday. And I will set out more detail of exactly what that timescale is on Thursday.

Of course regardless of what those changes are, our basic message for the next while, will still be to stay at home as much as possible and, although you will be able to interact outside and at a safe distance with other households a bit more, we still will want you to think carefully, very carefully about the numbers of people you do come into contact with.

Many of the current lockdown rules will still be in place and it will be vital, just as vital that everybody sticks to those.

And I think it’s especially important to emphasise that point today.

I know that many of you will be feeling angry and frustrated about stories you’ve heard over the last couple of days and perhaps wondering ‘why bother?’ I understand that. But I want to stress that as far as I’m concerned, the restrictions and rules that we put in place really matter.

It’s vital that all of us sticks to these rules -  and not just because people like me tell you too or ask you to. The reason we ask you to stick to these rules is because they help to protect you and your loved ones. They help us to protect our National Health Service and they do help us to save lives. And in fact it has been, I think, incredibly heartening, in recent weeks, to see that people across our country have, overwhelmingly, done the right thing.

And I don’t underestimate for a single moment how difficult that has been for many, many people. In this crisis, the way in which we have all shown love for - and solidarity with - each other, is by staying apart from each other.

And I know that many people, parents perhaps in particular, will have made very difficult decisions. 

Grandparents will not have seen new grandchildren; parents will have struggled with  childcare and no access to friends and family to support them; and many people have been denied the opportunity to say a final farewell to loved ones.

The sacrifices have been tough - and many people will live with the pain of them for a long time to come.

But these sacrifices have been for a purpose. It is because so many people have stuck to these rules that the number of deaths from Covid in Scotland has finally fallen over the past three weeks.

The individual decisions that so many have made – which I know have very often been heartbreaking – have helped to prevent even more heartbreak. And I want to yet again thank all of you for that.

But I also want to stress that – even as we glimpse a possible end to some lockdown restrictions – following the rules that are still in place will continue to be essential.

In fact in many ways, that will be more important than ever. After all, as we start to lift these restrictions, there is a genuine danger that the virus will start to spread again a bit more quickly. The way in which we ensure that that doesn’t happen – and the way in which we enable even more restrictions to be lifted in the future – is to continue to follow whatever public health guidance is in place at the time.

And an absolutely crucial part of the rules – now, and for the foreseeable future – is about what we do if we have symptoms of COVID-19, or if members of a household have symptoms.

If you think you have the virus – if you have a persistent cough, a fever, or a loss of taste and smell - you should self-isolate at home for a period of 7 days.  In that time you should get tested if you can - testing is now open to anyone with symptoms.

On the 8th day, if you don’t any longer have symptoms, you can go back out but anyone in your household should self-isolate for 14 days – that’s to allow time to see if they develop the virus. And if they do, they should then isolate for 7 days from that point.

And it’s worth stressing again, that self-isolation is not the same as lockdown.  When you are self-isolating you should not go out to the shops - or go out for exercise, or go to work at all. You should not leave your home for any reason. 

Indeed if you need anything you should have it delivered to you – for example by family, friends, local volunteers or supermarket delivery services. And if you need to, you can call the National Helpline that is in place to provide help  – and the number for that is 0800 111 4000.

If you are concerned about vulnerable people with you, or vulnerable people that you care for, then again, you can call that helpline.

Self isolation is crucial. It is one of the ways in which we can stop the virus from spreading. And as we gradually emerge from lockdown, it will become more important than ever. Particularly as we introduce, as we will at the end of this week our Test and Protect system across the country. And so if you or people in your household have symptoms – I ask you please to follow these rules because they do make a difference.

And of course for the moment, all other public health guidance remains the same. It applies to all of us, and it is for the benefit of all of us.

Please stay at home except for essential purposes - such as exercise, going to essential work that can’t be done at home, or getting food and medicine.

You can now exercise more than once a day – but when you’re out of the house, stay more than 2 metres apart from others. And don’t meet up with people from other households.

You should wear a face covering if you can – if you’re in a shop or on public transport. And remember to wash your hands thoroughly and regularly.

And finally as I’ve just covered, if you or someone in your household has symptoms  then you should stay at home completely.

I know that restrictions have been and continue to be really difficult. But they are still essential.

By sticking to them, we help to slow the spread of the virus, we can continue to protect the NHS, and we can and we will save lives.

So thank you once again, to everyone who continues to do the right thing.

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