Good afternoon, and welcome to today’s briefing.
I’ll start with the usual update on Covid-19.
An additional five positive cases were confirmed yesterday - which takes the total now in Scotland to 18,196.
Now let me point out that this is the second day in a row in which the number of new cases has been in single figures – to put that into context the last time that happened was on 11 March. So that is a sign of how far we have come and the progress we have made.
A total of 826 patients are currently in hospital with the virus either confirmed or suspected. That is 54 fewer than yesterday, and it includes a reduction of 17 in the number of confirmed cases.
A total of 18 people last night were in intensive care with confirmed or suspected Covid-19. That is five fewer than yesterday.
Since 5 March, a total of 4,034 patients who had tested positive for Covid-19 have been able to leave hospital. I wish all of them well.
However in the last 24 hours, two deaths were registered of a patient confirmed through a test as having Covid-19 – the total number of deaths in Scotland, under that measurement, now to 2,482.
As I always do, even as these numbers thankfully reduce, I want to emphasis that these numbers are not simply meaningless statistics – they represent individuals whose loss is a source of grief to many people. I want to again send my deepest condolences not just to family and friends today, but to everyone across Scotland who is grieving as are result of this illness.
And again across our country there are people who continue to go above and beyond the call of duty. That clearly includes our health and care workers and all of our key workers – my grateful thanks are with you for the incredible work you continue to do.
Later this afternoon, as we do every Thursday, we will publish the latest estimate of Scotland’s R number – that’s the average number of people that would be infected with Covid by one infected individual.
Last week, we estimated that the R number was in the range 0.6 to 0.8. Our aim is to keep that number under 1. Our modelling work suggests this hasn’t changed this week that number remains between 0.6 to 0.8 and continues to be under 1.
We also expect that our estimate for the number of infectious people in Scotland will have fallen further when we publish that later today. Last week, we estimated that on the previous Friday, 2,900 people were infectious. I expect today’s estimate will be about 2,000.
All of these figures demonstrate once again the progress we are all collectively making in the fight against Covid.
They are the reason why – as I confirmed yesterday - we can now make some further changes to the lockdown restrictions and give greater clarity about our likely path out of lockdown in the weeks to come. Although I must stress that all of the indicative dates I gave are dependent on continued progress against the virus, so we can get it to and keep it at the lowest possible levels.
I know people across the country are anxious to get back to normal. I know I am, and I will not be alone there. And businesses are obviously anxious to open up and start trading again.
All of that is extremely understandable. But it must also be accompanied by an understanding of the risks we still face, by ongoing vigilance and by a collective determination by all of us to do what is required to reduce these risks.
My main worry right now is that we start to believe the virus has gone away, that it no longer poses a risk and that as a result we all drop our guard and simply go back to life as it was before we were dealing with this.
That would be a mistake. And it is a mistake that would be very costly.
At every stage, we need to remember that the virus has not gone away and it will not simply go away of its own accord. There are places - some states in the USA and parts of Australia, that look as if they are already dealing with a resurgence of cases.
So my plea to everyone today and for some time to come - please do not forget that it is still out there and it is still highly infectious - and that if we give it the opportunities to spread again, if we allow bridges from one person to another, it will take those opportunities in a flash. And a resurgence in cases could force us to postpone our re-opening plans, or even to re-impose some restrictions, as the places elsewhere in the world I’ve just mentioned are having to consider.
So we must take care and adopt the right mitigating measures at all times. That continues to be essential. And some of the basic hygiene measures that I will come back to at the end of my remarks are actually more important for us all to comply with now than they have been at a previous stage when we were all in the main staying at home.
That’s relevant to the first of the two items that I want to update you on this afternoon, before I hand over to the Cabinet Secretary for Health, who has an update about care homes.
I gave a statement yesterday that many of you will have watched or caught up on since, announcing some indicative provisional times for changes to lockdown measures that will be happening during July - in the later stages of phase 2, and then into phase 3.
However at this afternoon’s briefing, I want to remind you of the changes that we announced last week, that will come into effect on Monday.
From Monday onwards, some indoor workplaces that have so far opted to remain closed in line with guidance - such as factories, labs and warehouses – can start to re-open again.
Non-essential offices and call centres must remain closed at this stage.
Workplaces that are reopening should apply strict physical distancing and hygiene measures, and they must complying with all other health & safety guidance.
The vast majority of employers have been extremely responsible throughout this crisis. I am sure that will continue, and I thank them for that.
I would remind employees, however, that if you genuinely think your working conditions are unsafe, you do have rights under employment legislation. In particular, if you have a trade union in your workplace, and you have concerns about your working conditions, you should talk to them.
From Monday, outdoor playgrounds and outdoor sports courts will be able to reopen.
Outdoor businesses such as zoos and garden attractions can also reopen.
However, for the first few days, until we hopefully lift this guidance hopefully at the end of next week, you should not be visiting them, unless you live within about 5 miles of them. And where these places are ticketed, tickets should be bought in advance.
Restrictions on moving house will also be lifted on Monday - updated guidance on that was issued two days ago.
In addition, registration offices will reopen on Monday for essential business. And marriages and civil partnerships will be permitted – however they will have to take place outdoors and with limited numbers.
Finally, on Monday retail premises of all sizes can re-open, if they have outdoor entrances and exits. Outdoor markets can also reopen.
Indoor shopping centres will remain closed at the moment, except for access to essential shops such as supermarkets and pharmacists. We hope that they will reopen on Monday 13th July.
Shops that are reopening on Monday – and the vast majority of shops that have been closed until now - must ensure that appropriate physical distancing and hygiene measures are in place. We are publishing updated guidance for the retail sector tomorrow and I will say more about this issue then, when I will also visit a shop preparing to open to see the steps they are taking.
I also want to stress that there is a responsibility here on all of us as customers, as well as on the retailers. I want us in the weeks ahead to support retailers as they try to get back to normal - but we must all shop responsibly.
The experience of shopping will be a bit different, and there may be times when retail staff ask us to follow rules that hadn’t previously been in place – it is vital for all of us to listen to them and to treat them with respect as they do their job.
And please wear a face covering in shops - that will help protect staff and other shoppers. And when other shoppers wear them, they help protect you.
The final issue I want to update you on relates to tourism. Later this afternoon, the first meeting of our Tourism Recovery Task Force will take place. That task force is co-chaired by the Tourism Minister, Fergus Ewing, and the Business Minister, Jamie Hepburn. It brings together more than 30 people with expertise and experience across the whole tourism sector, and indeed the whole country.
The task force will look at a number of pressing issues – for example promoting the staycation market for domestic tourism; supporting training and skills; considering how the conferences and events sector can best recover in due course; and looking at the funding support available to tourism businesses, including whether there are currently gaps in that support.
We know the vital importance of tourism to communities right across the Scotland. It’s important to our economy but tourism is also part of how we sell ourselves to the world and we have such a great reputation.
We are already doing a lot to support the sector, for example through our business support measures. And I hope that the gradual reopening of the sector during July will give businesses some measure of comfort.
But we are well are of how serious a blow Covid has been, and we will do everything we can to help tourism recover. This taskforce is a further important way of doing that.
I want to end simply by highlighting our key public health messages.
I realise that when you hear me talk about figures going in the right direction, and when you hear lots of discussion about restrictions being changed and people thinking they should be lifter quicker, it is tempting to think we can all relax a bit more and get back to normal more quickly. You might start to think that the rules don’t matter as much.
But we are only able to change restrictions now because so many of us have stuck to the rules so far. And we will only be able to continue this progress, if we continue to do that.
The basic hygiene measures are much more important now, as we start to go out and about an interact more with each other.
So remember that at present, you should still only meet up with other households outdoors, and you should only meet up to two other households at any one time.
You should only go indoors in someone else’s house to use the toilet, or to get through to a garden, and you should clean any surfaces you touch as you do that.
The public health campaign we launched last week – the Facts – summarises the other key points you need to remember.
- Face coverings should be worn in enclosed spaces such as shops. They are mandatory on public transport and we are still considering that for shops.
- Avoid crowded places. Even as more places open up and you are able to visit different places, don’t go to places that are crowded.
- Clean your hands and hard surfaces regularly.
- Two meter distancing remains the rule right now, and
- Self-isolate and book a test, if you have symptoms.
By remembering those five basic measures, and if we all comply we are reducing the ability of this virus to spread between one person and another and one household and another.
That way we are all playing our part in staying safe as individuals, as well as protecting others and saving lives. And my thanks goes to all of you for doing that and continuing to do that.
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