Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: First Minister's speech 28 October

Statement given by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at a media briefing in St Andrew's House, Edinburgh on Wednesday 28 October 2020.

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Good afternoon. I’ll begin as usual with the daily report on COVID statistics.

The total number of positive cases reported yesterday was 1,202. That represents 6.8 percent of all tests that were carried out yesterday.

451 of yesterday’s new cases were in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 292 in Lanarkshire, 152 in Lothian and 91 in Ayrshire and Arran. 

The remaining cases were spread across nine other health board areas.  The Western Isles was the only health board area yesterday not to record a new case.

That takes the total number of confirmed cases in Scotland now to 60,403.

I can also confirm that 1,117 people are in hospital – that is an increase of 17 from yesterday.

85 people are in intensive care, that’s three more than yesterday.

And I very much regret to say that in the past 24 hours, a further 28 deaths were registered of patients who first tested positive over the previous 28 days. 

And that takes the total number of deaths, under this measurement, to 2,754.

National Records of Scotland though has also just published its weekly update, which you know includes cases where COVID is a suspected or a contributory cause of death.

And today’s update shows that by last Sunday, the total number of registered deaths linked to Covid, under that wider definition, was 4,482.  

106 of these deaths were registered last week, that is 31 more than in the week before.

Of last week’s deaths, 82 occurred in hospital, 18 occurred in care homes, and 6 were at home or in another non-institutional setting.

We can never, obviously, see these deaths simply as statistics. And it’s important I know for me, and I’m sure for all of us, to remember that every single one represents the loss of a unique and an irreplaceable individual.

So once again, I want to send my condolences to everyone has been bereaved during the course of the pandemic– including, and perhaps especially at this moment, those who have lost a loved one in more recent times.

Now, I have a couple of specific points I want to update on today. They relate to care homes, and secondly to the Protect Scotland app.

Before I do that though, let me just acknowledge that the Scottish Government’s new strategic approach to tackling Covid was considered yesterday by the Scottish Parliament.

And Parliament last night voted unanimously for the motion submitted by the Scottish Government.

Tomorrow, we will formally confirm which areas of Scotland will be in which level of the framework from the 2nd of November.

And work to finalise these arrangements will take place over the course of today and this evening, where I will receive advice from the government’s clinical advisors, and the Cabinet will reach a conclusion. That will also take account of ongoing consultation with local authorities.

We will also publish tomorrow more detailed tables on what the different levels mean for children, and for people who were shielding over the spring and summer.

Before then though, let me take the opportunity to say thank you to the other political parties for the very constructive suggestions they have made about the framework, and indeed to all organisations who have talked to the Scottish Government in recent days.

We will continue to work closely with partners as the framework is implemented, and we will continue to improve and refine it whenever we can. And particularly as our knowledge and understanding and experience of the virus continues to evolve.

But it’s probably also an opportune moment just to say this, and to recognise again that the position we are in right now is really tough. And everyone is thoroughly sick of it.

And that’s been the case for some time. But as the nights get darker, as we turn in to winter, and of course as our attention and thought turn to Christmas, I think that feeling becomes a heavier one for all of us.

Unfortunately though, however much we might like to, we can’t magic Covid away. There is simply no alternative to all of us working together. To stop it overwhelming us, to stop it overwhelming our National Health Service, and to stop it taking lives if we possibly can.

And the other thing I think it’s worth remembering, not because it makes us feel all that much better, but to give us all a bit of perspective, is that we are not alone in this. Scotland is not uniquely living through Covid.

In fact, many of our European neighbours just now are struggling with situations even more severe – in some cases significantly more severe – than the one we are currently facing.

Now as I say, that doesn’t make what we are going through any easier, but it is a reminder that this is a global pandemic. It just happens that our generation is the one unfortunately having to live through it.

We will get through it. I think that is the one thing we can be reasonably certain of. But the journey through it is and will continue to be really difficult for people.

And I think it’s important for me to acknowledge that, and to acknowledge the very difficult sacrifices people are making. And to take the opportunity again to thank all of you for that.

Let me turn now to my two specific updates. The first relates a report commissioned by the Scottish Government which has just been released by Public Health Scotland.

The report looks in some detail at discharges from hospitals into care homes during the early months of the pandemic, and the extent to which people were tested before discharge into care homes.

And it examines whether these discharges were associated with outbreaks in care homes.

Now, the report’s authors, together with the Chief Nursing Officer, are hosting a detail briefing for journalists later this afternoon.

I won’t go into all of the details of the report this morning. But I think it is worth highlighting that because the report uses some fairly detailed statistical modelling, it is not always a straightforward read.

The other point I want to make before saying a little bit about the conclusion of the report, is that nothing in it detracts from the tragedy of the deaths that have occurred in care homes over the course of the pandemic. And nothing ever will detract from the heartbreak of those bereaved.

And it doesn’t take away either from the duty of government – which is one we rightly feel acutely – to learn apply lessons.

All of that said though, the report does have some clear findings and recommendations. And you can access it yourself on Public Health Scotland’s website.

It concludes that once we allow for other factors, such as the size of a care home, hospital discharges were not found to have contributed to a significantly higher risk of an outbreak.

And it’s probably worth me quoting direct from the report, rather than seeking to paraphrase it. The report says, and I’m quoting at this stage:

“The report does not find statistical evidence that hospital discharges of any kind were associated with care home outbreaks”.

And what they mean by “of any kind” is discharges where a person tested negative before discharge to a care home, or tested positive, or were not tested at all.

It is important though for me to point out that the level of certainty about that conclusion differs in each of these three scenarios.

But the overall conclusion is as I have stated, that there is no statistical evidence that hospital discharges of any kind were associated with care home outbreaks.

I understand this is similar to the findings observed by Public Health Wales when it also looked at this issue.

Now as I said a moment ago, this report is important, and it’s important for accountability. It’s also important for learning.

But it is of no comfort. And it never would be of any comfort to those who lost a loved one.

So we will be supporting Public Health Scotland to take forward further work and analysis, so that we have as detailed an understanding as possible of the outbreaks that did take place in care homes.

And of course we will continue our work of the last few months to further improve safety measures in care homes.

For example, as you know, we now do routine weekly testing of care home staff. And we plan now to extend that testing to designated visitors to care homes, and to a wider range of professionals who enter care homes regularly.

We are also considering the findings of the report so that we can better mitigate against the potential effect of care home size, in seeking to prevent Covid infections. And the Health Secretary will set out more on that in a statement to parliament next week on social care planning for the winter period.

And where the report’s conclusions highlight the need for additional measures, we will act on that.

So I want people to know that we take this very seriously.

And lastly on this subject, I think it is appropriate for me to again convey my condolences to everyone who has lost a loved one to this virus. But in particular to those who have lost loved ones who were resident in care homes.

Now, the second point I want to cover is of course related, because it is to do with Covid, but it is a very different issue. And that is to highlight today a further improvement to the Protect Scotland app.

Since it was launched, the app has been downloaded by more than 1 ½ million people across Scotland. And I can tell you that it has already notified more than 10,000 contacts of positive cases with advice to tell them to self isolate.

And that’s important, because in some cases of course those people would not otherwise have been notified. Because they will have been people that the positive case might not have known that they’d been in close contact with.

And of course in most cases, the notification would have quicker than through tradional manual contact tracing, because it was done automatically through the app.

So the improvement thathas been made to the app, is about interoperability. And it means that as of now, the app works in both Northern Ireland and Jersey.

So if you have to travel to either of those two locations on essential business, you can keep using the Protect Scotland app. You don’t have to shift to the app in these places.  And you will be notified if you are in close contract with someone who gets Covid, and enters that fact onto their app.

And that’s a mutual thing, so the Northern Ireland app will work here, just as ours will work there.

Now, this enhancement is the result of extensive work that NHS Scotland has done, to develop a server that allows different apps to work together.

And it will also be able to handle information from other apps in due course.

For example the English and Welsh app is due to be updated in the next few days. But we’ve already reached an agreement that that app will be able to join the NHS Scotland server once the update has happened.

So that means the Protect Scotland app should be able to function in England and Wales from early next month, and vice versa. And we also expect that it will be able to function in Gibraltar if anybody is travelling there.

Discussions are also underway about ensuring the app can operate in other countries across Europe.

So this demonstrates the fact that we keep on improving the app to enhance its capabilities.

But of course, ultimately, its usefulness is down to all of us. So there’s two things I want to continue to urge people to do:

Firstly, if you haven’t already done so, and you’re able to, please downloaded the app.

As more than 1 ½ million of us already know, it takes less than 2 minutes to do it.

And as the numbers I’ve just reported demonstrate, it does make a difference.

But secondly, once you have downloaded the app - if you test positive for Covid, please make sure that you enter the code that you will be given when you test positive.

That sounds basic, but the evidence we have so far suggests not everybody remembers to do that part.

Entering to code is essential in order for people that you’ve been in close contact with to be notified that you have Covid.

So if everybody not just downloads the app, but remembers to do that crucial bit of entering the code, then the app can make an even bigger difference.

Those are the two specific issues I wanted to update you on today. Let me close, as I usually do, before the Chief Medical Officer and I take questions, by reminding you of the current rules and guidance.

If you live in Lothian, Lanarkshire, Forth Valley, Ayrshire and Arran and Greater Glasgow and Clyde, please don’t travel outside the area you live in unless you have a clear need to do so.

And please don’t travel to these areas for other parts of Scotland, unless it is necessary.

None of us – anywhere in the country– should be visiting each other’s homes at the moment, except for very specific exemptions like childcare, or if you’re looking after an older person.

And when we do meet people from other households - outdoors, or in public indoor places like cafés - the maximum group size should be 6 from a maximum of two households.

In addition, please avoid car-sharing unless it is essential. I’ve had people contacting me, asking if that is really important. So let me give you this piece of information.

According to our most recent figures, more than 1,000 people who tested positive for Covid in the previous week, reported sharing a car.

Now that doesn’t mean that’s where they all got the virus. We’ve gone through this before, people give this information to Test and Protect. But it is possible that some of these people got the virus from someone they were sharing a car with.

Work from home if you can.

And as I’ve already covered, download the app if you haven’t already done so.

And finally, remember the five rules that will help keep us all safe:

  • Wear Face coverings
  • Avoid places with crowds of people
  • Clean hands and hard surfaces
  • Keep two metres distance from people in other households.
  • And Self isolate and get tested if you have symptoms.

It’s by following these rules that we can protect ourselves and protect those we love.

But it’s also by following these rules that we can support and protect our NHS.

And I want to end by emphasising this point. And it’s a point that we made frequently and regularly, and people responded to magnificently at the outset of the pandemic. But as we see hospital and ICU admissions rise again, it is vital yet again to make sure that we do protect our NHS, so that it can protect those who need treatment for Covid, but also those who need treatment for other illnesses and conditions as well.

And of course, it’s by following all of these rules that we can also save lives. And that right now is the most important thing of all.

So my thanks again to everybody for all of your efforts in doing all of that. It is deeply appreciated. And if we all continue to pull together to do these things, then hopefully we will continue to see the progress we need to make in getting through this virus.

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