Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: First Minister's speech 27 August 2020

Statement given by the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at a media briefing at St Andrew's House, Edinburgh on Thursday 27 August.

Good afternoon, and thanks for joining us.

I will start with the usual update on the statistics around COVID-19.

An additional 68 positive cases were confirmed yesterday.

That represents just 0.4% of the people who were newly tested yesterday and takes the total number of cases now to 20,056.

A full health board breakdown will be available as usual later, but the provisional information I have is that 15 of the 68 new cases are in Tayside, where we are dealing with the cluster involving the Two Sisters food processing plant.

21 are in Greater Glasgow & Clyde, 8 are in Lanarkshire, and 9 are in Grampian. 

The remaining 15 are spread across 7 different health boards.

I can also confirm that 257 patients are currently in hospital with confirmed COVID which is 8 more than yesterday.

And 2 people are in intensive care, which is the same as yesterday.

I’m also pleased to say that again in the past 24 hours, no deaths were registered of patients who tested positive over the previous 28 days and the number of deaths under that measurement therefore remains 2,494.

However, as we were reminded yesterday, people are still dying of this virus - so we must continue to treat the threat it poses very seriously.

Every death is of course a source of heartbreak and grief to many. So again, I want to send my condolences to everyone who has lost a loved one.

There are a few issues I want to briefly cover today before the Chief Nursing Officer and I take questions from journalists.

The first is our latest estimate of the R number -  which you will recall is the average number of people infected by one other infectious person.

Our modelling suggests that the R number is currently between 0.8 and 1.2 - which is unchanged from our previous estimate.

Obviously we look at the R number carefully although when prevalence is generally low as it is just now across Scotland, it can be influenced disproportionally by the kinds of clusters that we have been seeing lately.

However, we have also seen a recent rise in daily cases - although many of them are connected with known clusters and of course as I’ve just highlighted today, our daily testing positivity rate remains low, around 1 or as we’ve seen today significantly below 1.

However, we are nevertheless being reminded on a daily basis that COVID is still out there, it hasn’t gone away and therefore there is a need for continued caution. All of us have a role to play in suppressing the virus, and denying it wherever possible the chance to spread.

Let me now give a quick update on the most significant clusters that we are currently dealing with.

Firstly, in relation to the cluster linked to the Two Sisters plant in Coupar Angus, as of yesterday, there were 166 positive cases linked to it – 146 employees of the factory, and 20 of their contacts.  In total, that’s an increase of 10 positive cases since yesterday. 

Almost all of the workforce have now been tested.   In fact, more than 5,000 people in Tayside have been tested, since the outbreak came to our attention last Wednesday.  And at this stage, there is still no evidence of wider community transmission, which is very positive news.

All employees at the factory – and their households – should continue to self-isolate until Monday.  I want to thank them – and indeed everyone else who is helping us to contain this outbreak and prevent further spread.

Let me also update on the situation at Kingspark School in Dundee. In total now, 34 cases have been identified as part of that cluster - that’s 3 more than yesterday.

Of these 34 cases, 21 are staff members, 10 are contacts and 3 are pupils of the school, all from within the same class. 

All staff, pupils, household contacts of pupils, and other relevant contacts should now be self-isolating.  And again, in this cluster, there is no evidence at this stage of wider community transmission.

There is also a cluster of cases in Hawick that we’re dealing with right now.  7 positive cases have been confirmed there so far.  All are from a small number of families in the area.  

Control measures are being put in place at a number of workplaces linked to those individuals and the process of contact tracing is underway.

Close contacts are being tested.  And a mobile testing facility in the area will support that process.

Finally, in relation to the outbreak in Aberdeen, there are now 263 cases associated with the pub cluster. That’s an increase of 2 since yesterday. All of the signs continue to be that this outbreak is now under control and so I want to thank everyone who has played a part in achieving this.

I want to say a word about recent testing numbers – and particularly, I hope this is helpful and gives you an insight into the testing of children and young people since schools returned recently.  

We know that –  in recent weeks – the number of children and young people under the age of 17 who have been going for testing has increased significantly.  

Based on management data that we’ve got from Public Health Scotland we know that it has in fact increased eight fold since the middle of July.  

Last week alone, just short of 17,500 young people aged between 2–17 were tested. 

This is a very significant number but the key point I wanted to make and share with you today from that is this one, of those 17,500 young people who have been tested or who were tested last week alone, only 49 of them tested positive. That’s a positivity rate of just 0.3%.

I know and can well understand why many parents and teachers and young people themselves have concerns about the return to school. 

Yes, we have had clusters of cases in some communities involving young people – but I think these figures reveal the bigger picture.

Despite an increase of more than 300% in the number of young people that were tested from one week to the next, from the week before last to last week, the number of positive cases recorded increased by just 2. Not 2 percent. Just 2 cases in total.

I think that is encouraging and I hope is reassuring to parents and teachers across the country. I hope it will encourage you to absolutely continue to be vigilant, we all have to be vigilant right now but not to be unduly concerned about young people in schools.

And while it is understandable that people, parents in particular, want to err on the side of caution, it is also important to remember the symptoms of COVID that trigger the need for a test. These are any one of a new persistent cough, a fever, or a loss of or change in sense of taste or smell.

Other symptoms - like a runny nose -  if they are not accompanied by one of the COVID symptoms, should not lead to a test.

I hope the data I’ve just reported provides some additional assurance as the school term continues.  We will of course continue to closely monitor these results over the coming weeks and if there are any changes that I need to bring to your attention, please be assured that I will do that but I thought it was important to give you an insight into this information today.

The final item I want to cover today concerns the restrictions on social gatherings and this relates to an announcement I made last week in parliament when I gave the three weekly review update.

I can confirm that from tomorrow, police will have powers to disperse house parties if more than fifteen people from more than one household are in attendance.

We know from the reports of our test and protect teams – and also from evidence around the world – that these kinds of gatherings pose a significant transmission risk.   

Under the current guidance, no more than eight people, from a maximum of three different households should be meeting indoors.   The vast majority of people will be I know sticking to these limits – and I am grateful for that.

But we know a minority don’t. And of course, as we head into autumn and winter – with the colder weather – the temptation to hold big, indoor gatherings will understandably be even greater.

The higher limit, 15 as opposed to eight that we set in this new law are not a green light, I want to stress this, to ignore the existing guidance that a maximum of 8 people from 3 households should meet indoors.

But in recognition that we intend these new legal powers to be a last resort only and for use in the most blatant breaches of the guidance, we have decided to set a higher threshold for their use.

Ensuing that police have the powers to disperse large house parties, where that is necessary, is another important tool in trying to keep this virus suppressed. And we hope it will help to reduce the potential for future clusters and outbreaks, leading to greater lockdown restrictions having to be imposed.

As I have said already, we expect these powers to be used only as a last resort, as all of these legal powers we deploy during this pandemic have been a last resort.  And the restrictions will only be in place so long as they are necessary.  We will review them every three weeks.

I also want to make it clear – particularly to young people – this is not about trying to stop people having fun.  

We’re not trying to police your social lives.  

Seeing and socialising with your friends is important, especially during what continues to be a really difficult period.

But for the overall health and wellbeing of the country, it needs to be done safely and responsibly because that is how we will avoid the return to some of the stricter lockdown measures.  And it’s how we will continue to keep this virus under control.

And of course, we all have a part to play in this. So I’ll end, as always, by stressing the importance of the FACTS advice.

The recent rise in prevalence – and of course the clusters we’re seeing in different parts of the country – show us and remind us how quickly and easily COVID is capable of spreading.

So we all need to do everything we can to avoid that happening and keep it under control.

That means complying strictly with the guidance on social gatherings but fundamentally it means in all of our day to day interactions continuing to follow  the five golden rules of FACTS.

So let me just end by reminding everybody of what they are:

  • Face coverings in enclosed spaces should be worn
  • Avoid crowded places, indoors or outdoors
  • Clean your hands and clean hard surfaces regularly
  • Two metre distancing is the overall rule that we’re asking people to abide by
  • and self isolate, and book a test, if you have any of the symptoms that I’ve already spoken about today.

If we all comply with these rules then despite the challenges we are seeing as we come out of lockdown, we do give ourselves a real fighting chance of keeping this virus under control so all of you who are watching, I suspect because you are watching you are taking care to comply with all of this advice, please continue to do so and please as I regularly say now, please help us in getting the message across by spreading it to everybody in your family, your friends, network and of course, colleagues.

So my thanks to all of you for joining us again today. We’re going to move straight to questions. The Chief Nursing Officer will assist me with the questions today.

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