Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: First Minister's speech 26 May 2020

Statement given by the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at a media briefing in St Andrew's House, Edinburgh on Tuesday 26 May.

Good afternoon. Thanks for joining us for today’s briefing.

I want to start – as I always do – by updating you on some of the key statistics in relation to Covid-19 in Scotland.

As at 9 o’clock this morning, there have been 15,185 positive cases confirmed - an increase of 29 from yesterday.

A total of 1,200 patients are in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19. That represents a total decrease of 69 from yesterday, including a decrease of 16 in the number of confirmed cases.

A total of 36 people last night were in intensive care with confirmed or suspected Covid 19. That is a decrease of 4 since yesterday.

I am also able to confirm today that since 5 March, a total of 3,589 patients who had tested positive for the virus have been able to leave hospital.

And unfortunately, in the last 24 hours, 18 deaths have been registered of patients who have been confirmed through a test as having Covid-19 –  that takes the total number of deaths in Scotland, under that measurement, to 2291.

Each one is an individual whose loss is a source of grief to many. I want to send my condolences to everyone who has lost a loved one to this virus.

I also want to express my gratitude – as I always do – to our health and care workers, for everything you are doing in such testing circumstances.

Today, I want to focus on the launch of NHS Scotland’s test, trace and isolate programme - Test and Protect - the logo for which you will see behind me.

From the end of this week, through Test and Protect, anyone who suspects they have Covid-19 will be tested.

If you test positive, your close contacts will be traced and advised to isolate for 14 days.

The aim of Test and Protect is to quickly identify cases of the virus and then act to break the chains of transmission.

On 4th May, we published our initial plans.

I can confirm today, that the system will go live in every one of Scotland’s 14 health board areas on Thursday.

Test and Protect will be an important tool in the months ahead - it will help us suppress the virus while we slowly ease lockdown restrictions. But it will only be effective if we all play our part.

So today I’ll set out what the capacity of the new system will be at the point of launch and how this will develop.

And I’ll set out how you as an individual, your household, your workplace and your employer can support us in making it work.

Firstly we said that to launch Test and Protect nationally we needed the ability to conduct over 15,000 tests a day.  I can confirm today that this capacity is now in place. 

It will be delivered through a combination of NHS labs, academic partners, the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service and the Lighthouse Lab in Glasgow. 

Secondly, we said we would enhance and extend use of the software that public health teams already use for contact tracing in relation to other infectious diseases.

That software has been piloted in Fife, Lanarkshire and Highland over the last week and I can confirm that it will be operational in every health board by Thursday.

Thirdly, we said that we’d aim to have 2000 contact tracers available by the end of this month.

Based on current demand estimates, we assess that around 700 will be needed in the early phase. However, I can confirm that by the end of the month we will have a pool of around 2000 to draw on if necessary.

This is a system that will operate at a scale not seen before in Scotland. Over the first couple of weeks, it will need to bed down. But introducing it at the same time as we take the first cautious steps out of lockdown gives us the opportunity to address any operational issues ahead of a potentially more substantial easing of restrictions at the next review date in 3 weeks.

Over the next few weeks, we will also add enhancements to the system.

As I said earlier, the technology used by contact tracers will be in place from the start. But we will also add a digital platform to allow people who test positive to enter details of their contacts online.

We will also continue to build testing capacity and make access to testing more locally accessible. We will keep you updated on all of that.

Let me now outline what we are asking you, the public to do.

Let me stress that, just like lockdown, this is something that will only have the desired effect if we all do what is required. It can’t be seen as optional.

To make sure we all understand what is required, a public awareness campaign will start later this week. And during June, information will be delivered to every household across the country.

But let me set out the basics here.

Firstly, as of Thursday we are asking that if you have any of the symptoms of COVID-19 - that is a cough, temperature or loss of taste or smell - you take immediate steps to book a test.

Please don’t wait to see if you feel better after a day or two - time is of the essence, so get in touch as soon as you experience symptoms.

You should go to or, if you can’t get online, call NHS 24 on 0800 028 2816.

Online you can ask for a test for yourself, or for someone else that you live with, and book it at one of the drive through testing centres or mobile testing units. For some, there will also be the option of a home testing kit. As I said earlier, in the coming weekswe will be working to further expand local access to testing.

If you can’t go online, you should call NHS 24 on 0800 028 2816. An adviser will then go through some questions with you, and book you in for a test.

While you wait for your test and the result, it is essential that you and your household self-isolate.  That means staying at home at all times - with the exception of going for the test. You shouldn’t go to the shops, out for exercise or to see anybody else.

In line with the current guidance, the person with symptoms should isolate for 7 days from the start of your symptoms.

Other members of the household should self-isolate for 14 days.  If any of them start to display symptoms during that time, they should also go through the testing process.

If your test comes back negative, you and your household can end your isolation.

However, if you are contacted to be told that you have tested positive, you will be asked at that stage for details of people that you have been in contact with.

The definition of a contact is people within your household, people you have had face to face contact with, and people who have been within two metres of for a period of 15 minutes or more. 

I want to take the opportunity now to assure you that your privacy will be respected at all times during this process.

The information you provide will be held securely within the NHS and used only for the purposes of tracing your contacts. 

It will not be used by the Scottish Government - indeed, we won’t have access to it. All the work of identifying and tracing contacts will be done within Scotland’s NHS.

Let me turn now to what to do if you receive a call from a contact tracer to say that you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive.

It is no exaggeration to say that how you – how any of us - respond will be vital in stopping the spread of the virus.

We will ask you to self-isolate immediately - the success of Test and Protect will really depend on all of us trusting this advice and, for the sake of ourselves and each other, agreeing to abide by it.

If you are at work, the advice will be to immediately head home, taking care to come into contact with as few people as possible. 

We have published guidance this morning for employers, making clear they should support anyone who is asked to self-isolate by Test and Protect.

If you are well, and can work from home, then your employer will expect you to do so, but they should not ask you to go into work.

The Scottish Government is also in contact with the UK Government to ensure that employment rights and entitlement to benefits including statutory sick pay, take account of the fact that people may be off work or unable to attend appointments through no fault of their own.

We have also published today general advice for anyone who is asked to self-isolate. Remember that this is something over the months ahead that could happen to any of us - on more than one occasion.

This includes hygiene advice for your home, advice for other people in your household, what to do if you care for someone who is shielding or clinically vulnerable, and what to do if you need help accessing food and medicine or even accommodation. It also suggests how we can all make some preparations in advance.

Now, I know there’s a lot of information here to take in. But don’t worry, we will be taking steps to ensure everyone knows what we are asking you to do.

For now, let me leave you with these points.

Test and Protect is an important tool for us in the period ahead. The more effective it is, the more of the lockdown restrictions we will be able to lift.

However, it can’t do all the work of suppressing the virus. We will all continue to have a vital role to play in our everyday lives. That means even as we ease lockdown, physical distancing, good hygiene and following appropriate advice will continue to be essential.

And so too will all of us doing what is asked of us. Test and Protect will only work if we all come forward for testing when we have symptoms and if we all agree to self-isolate when asked.

And if the government steps up to give you the support you need to do so.

In short, Test and Protect will require exactly the same spirit of solidarity and care for each other as lockdown has done.

It will be a collective national endeavour.

People will need the help of family, friends, colleagues and employers. Volunteers who have been supporting efforts to distribute food and care for the vulnerable through lockdown will have a valuable part to play in supporting people through Test and Protect. Government will have to ensure the right capacity, resources and support is in place.

And all of us will have to agree to make sacrifices for the common good - just as we have been doing.

In short, by agreeing that some of us will have to stay home at times - when we have symptoms, test positive, or have been in contact with someone who tests positive - we can gradually move away from a situation where everyone has to stay home all of the time.

As I said earlier, we will make much more information available in the days and weeks to come.

But let me leave you with the most important message - from Thursday, if you have symptoms you should go online to NHS Inform or call NHS 0800 028 2816 0800 and book a test straight away.

And for now, all of us must continue to stick with lockdown measures.

So please, stay at home except for essential purposes.

When you do leave the house, stay more than two metres from other people. And do not meet up with people from households other than yours.

You should wear a face covering if you are in an enclosed space such as a shop or on public transport. This is one of the issues covered in the Transport Transition Plan that we will also publish later this afternoon.

You should also continue to wash your hands thoroughly and regularly.

And if you or someone else in your household has symptoms of Covid-19, then you should stay at home completely.

At the moment, these actions are vital - to slow the spread of the virus, protect the NHS, and save lives.

So thank you once again, for helping to do that.

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