Good afternoon everyone, thank you for joining us today.
Let me start as usual with an update on the Covid statistics.
I can report that an additional 4 positive cases were confirmed yesterday. That represents 0.1% of the people who were newly tested yesterday, and it takes the total number of cases in Scotland to 18,558.
A total of 264 patients are currently in hospital with confirmed Covid and that is 6 fewer than yesterday.
A total of 2 people last night were in intensive care with confirmed Covid and that is the same number as yesterday.
Finally, I am very pleased and indeed very relieved to say that during the last 24 hours yet again no deaths were registered of a patient confirmed through a test as having Covid and that means the total number of deaths, under this measure, therefore remains 2,491.
Although we are now reporting fewer deaths on a daily basis, and there has been several days now with no deaths among those confirmed with a test, that total that I have just read out there, never the less reminds us of the impact this virus has had on families right across the country and I want again to extend my condolences to everyone who is grieving a loved one.
And as always, let me record my thanks to our health and care workers for the extraordinary work that you have done and you continue to do.
I have three things that I want to briefly update on today.
The first relates to a new NHS pharmacy service which is being launched today.
It is called NHS Pharmacy First Scotland, and it is available in all community pharmacies across the country. It replaces our minor ailment service – but unlike that service, which was restricted to certain groups, this new service is available to everyone in Scotland.
The Scottish Government has worked closely with Community Pharmacy Scotland and health boards in planning and delivering the new service, and I am grateful to them for their hard work.
As more NHS services start up, we want to ensure that you get the right care in the right place. And in many circumstances, the best place for you to go for care – certainly in the first instance - will be the community pharmacist.
Pharmacists can help people with minor conditions - such as sore throats, earache and cold sores. They can also help with common clinical conditions such as Urinary Tract Infections, for which prescribed medicine is often required.
Now at this point, and given the nature of what we are dealing with right now, it’s important that I stress that you should not go to your pharmacy first if you have any of the symptoms of Covid – a new cough, a high temperature or a loss of or change in your sense of taste and smell.
In these circumstances, you should self-isolate immediately, and book a test through the NHS Inform website, or by calling 0800 028 2816.
But for other minor conditions, the pharmacist - or another trained member of the team - will give you advice, and will provide medicine if recommended. And if they feel your condition needs investigation - or that more specialised care - then they will be able to refer you to your GP, or to another NHS service.
Pharmacy First Scotland is yet another demonstration I think of the importance and value of the work done by pharmacists across the country. Community pharmacies have been open throughout the pandemic so far, and I know that their staff have worked immensely hard during this whole period.
The new service being launched today shows their ongoing commitment to the health and wellbeing of people in their community and I am grateful to all of them for their efforts.
The second point I want to raise is again relevant to the resumption of NHS services.
Yesterday, I was able to visit the NHS Louisa Jordan facility at the Scottish Events Campus in Glasgow, as you recall that is the temporary facility created in case we needed additional in-patient capacity because of Covid. Thankfully we haven’t needed it for that reason yet, although we are retaining it as a contingency through the winter in case we need that because of the virus, although we hope that doesn’t happen.
Over the past few weeks, a pilot project has been underway there whilst the hospital is not needed for Covid and through that pilot project more than 300 patients have received orthopaedic and plastic surgery consultations since the start of July.
Because of the success of that pilot, the hospital will now increase the number of patients it welcomes each day.
It will also expand the services it offers – for example it will provide X-rays, other medical image scans, and dermatology appointments. By doing so, it will help us to reduce hospital waiting times, and to improve outcomes for patients and it will ensure we are making use of a facility created to help us deal with Covid but not at this stage required for that so we are getting some value and it is contributing to the wider NHS effort.
I saw yesterday how much work has been involved in preparing the Louisa Jordan for the Covid contingency but also for these new services that it is going to be offering and I want to take the opportunity today to thank everyone who has been involved, in the whatever capacity, in that project.
The final point I want to make today relates to the hospitality sector. Outdoor hospitality, was allowed to reopen three weeks ago, and indoor hospitality resumed two weeks ago.
There has been a lot of hard work by businesses and staff across the country, to make their premises safe for visitors.
However. although the majority of businesses are following the rules, we do know anecdotally of some instances of guidance being breached – of seating areas perhaps not being cleaned thoroughly between customers; of staff not wearing face coverings; and of contact details for Test & Protect not being taken.
The guidance for hospitality is on the Scottish Government website, so businesses do know what to do – and you as customers also know what to expect and if you are not aware of that then you can go and read that.
And in response to the industry, the Scottish Government and hospitality associations have now produced an updated set of questions and answers – responding to questions that businesses have raised.
These were widely shared yesterday across industry association networks - and deal with everything from queuing arrangements for customers, to the mitigations which need to be in place to allow for 1 metre distancing.
As you’ve heard me say before, compliance in the hospitality sector has generally been good, and I am grateful to everyone for that.
Ensuring even better co-operation and even better compliance is in the interests of all of us – government, customers, and of course the sector itself.
If we do start to see outbreaks linked to the hospitality sector, we would need to take action and that could include closing premises down again. Nobody wants that to happen. So I want to send a message to everyone in the sector today. These guidelines aren’t just for the first few weeks – they must become the norm, and you cannot allow standards to slip.
And to customers: if any venue that you are frequenting or visiting doesn’t seem to be taking Covid seriously – for example if they don’t ask for your contact details, and there’s not clear guidance in place about physical distancing – then my advice to you is to go somewhere else because all of us, businesses and individuals, have a role to play here in making sure compliance is high, that standards are high and that we are not giving this virus the opportunity to spread because standards are slipping.
And the importance of not letting standards slip – of continuing to be very vigilant, careful and cautious – is actually the wider message I want to leave you with today.
The progress we’ve made and continue to make in Scotland is very significant, and very welcome and the statistics that I shared with you today underline that again, but as you heard me say many times, that progress because of the nature of what we are dealing with; an infectious, a very infectious virus, that progress remains fragile.
And it may seem a bit odd, given our current numbers here in Scotland, but I remain highly concerned, possibly increasingly concerned again, about the Covid risk.
We are currently seeing a worrying resurgence of Covid cases – not just in faraway parts of the world, but also in several countries across Europe right now. For example parts of Spain and Belgium have seen increases in Covid in the last couple of weeks and we are seeing outbreaks in countries like Germany and France.
And there are two important lessons for us from that.
The most immediate one is that as the prevalence of Covid in Scotland continues to fall, we must guard against the risk of cases coming in to the country from outside.
So if necessary, the Scottish Government will re-impose quarantine restrictions on travel from certain countries – as we did at the weekend for Spain – if those countries see a sharp increase in cases.
People planning overseas holidays need to be aware of that. You cannot assume, and you heard me say that last week, you cannot assume that the rules and regulations applying to or in your destination when you book a holiday will stay the same while you are there or be the same when you come to travel home.
And again as I have said before, but I like to reiterate this point very strongly today, my advice to you remains to be very cautious about non-essential foreign travel at this time.
And if you are in a position to have a holiday and want to take a holiday, the safest way of doing so, is to stay here in Scotland so you avoid the risks of foreign travel but you are also, as an added bonus, helping the Scottish tourism industry as well
There is though a wider lesson from the rise in cases we are seeing in other countries.
Covid is currently declining in Scotland.
But it is not declining around the world. The WHO is very clear that globally this pandemic is still accelerating.
And several countries which had seen falls in their Covid rates, as we are seeing and have been seeing here in Scotland, are now dealing with new cases again and rising incidents.
And the point I want to make again today is that the same thing could easily happen in Scotland. And it will happen, if we drop our guard. So all of us must continue to be careful.
For the Government, that means that we must continue to take steps to guard against a surge in cases, and sometimes that will involve us taking unpopular and difficult decisions but we will not shy away from that if that is necessary to protect the country. And that is one reason why, when we announce our review of the remaining Covid restrictions on Thursday, we are likely to adopt a very cautious approach at this stage.
And for all of us, it is vital that we continue to do everything we possibly can to stay safe. As we meet more people, support local businesses, we need to think about whether we are acting in a way which could help the virus to spread.
That is why I want to end, as I always do, by highlighting FACTS. These are the five steps which will help to keep you safe, even as you go out and about more.
Please don’t see these as optional. Please see these steps as an essential part of life right now and for the foreseeable future. See these steps as just as important to your wellbeing and safety as wearing a seatbelt or looking both ways before you cross the road.
And in this situation, remember the failure to comply doesn’t just put your own health at risk, it puts other people’s health at risk as well.
So here are the five golden rules.
• Face coverings must be worn in shops and public transport and indeed in any enclosed spaces.
• Avoid crowded places - indoors and outdoors
• Clean your hands and hard surfaces regularly.
• Two metre distancing remains our very clear advice.
• and Self isolate, and book a test, if you have symptoms.
And you go to the NHS website to find out more about that.
If we all remember these 5 basic measures, then all of us will be playing a part in minimise the opportunities for Covid to spread and we will therefore be helping in keeping this virus under control and that will help protect ourselves, help protect others and it will protect the NHS and help us all to save lives.
So thank you, once again, to everyone who is doing the right thing, and I know it feels like we have been living with this now for a very long time because we have and it has been difficult, it has been painful and it will continue to be so but we cannot drop our guard because the risk of Covid has not gone away. It is still out there and we must all play our part in continuing to help to tackle and to mitigate it.
There is a problem
Thanks for your feedback