Good afternoon – and welcome to today’s briefing. I am joined today by the Cabinet Secretary for the Economy, Fair Work and Culture, Fiona Hyslop; and our National Clinical Director, Jason Leitch.
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 15,327 positive cases confirmed - an increase of 39 from yesterday.
A total of 1,216 patients are in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19. That represents a total decrease of 22 from yesterday, including a decrease of 28 in the number of confirmed cases.
A total of 40 people last night were in intensive care with confirmed or suspected Covid 19. That is an increase of 3 since yesterday.
We shouldn’t read anything into that increase - these figures will fluctuate day to day. But nevertheless it is a reminder that the virus has not gone away.
I am also able to confirm today that since 5 March, a total of 3,640 patients who had tested positive for the virus and required hospitalisation have been able to leave hospital. I wish all of them well.
And unfortunately I also have to report that in the last 24 hours, 15 deaths have been registered of patients who had been confirmed through a test as having Covid-19 – that takes the total number of deaths in Scotland, under that measurement, to 2,331.
We must never lose sight of the fact that these numbers are not simply statistics. They represent individuals whose deaths are being mourned by friends, family and loved ones. I want to send my condolences to everyone who has lost a loved one to this virus.
I also want to thank – as I always do - our health and care workers. For the tenth Thursday in a row last night, people across the country joined together to applaud your efforts and show our gratitude.
There are two items I want to cover today.
Firstly, I want to recap on the changes to the lockdown restrictions on social interaction and leisure that have taken effect today.
I’m very conscious that this weekend will be the first – in quite a while – that people will be able to meet up. And so I want to take the time to outline, once again, what the changes are...and the rules you must follow to stay safe and avoid a resurgence of the virus.
From today, you and your household can meet with another household out of doors – for example in a park or in a private garden.
However, you should limit the total number of people meeting up, to a maximum of 8. Ideally it should be less than that.
You should not meet with more than one household at a time. And don’t meet with more than one other household per day.
If you do meet up, you need to be outside – and you need to stay at least 2 metres away from people in the other household. You should also avoid touching the same hard surfaces.
For example, if you are having a picnic or barbecue this weekend – not only should you stay 2 metres apart from members of the other household, but each household should also bring its own food, cutlery, plates and cups.
And please - don’t go indoors. Being in someone else’s house should still be avoided, unless you are providing support to someone who is vulnerable.
We are not putting a legal limit on how far you can travel to meet another household. But if the distance is so far that you would have to use someone else’s bathroom, please don’t go.
Again, to be clear, these rules are for a reason. If you go inside a house, or come within 2 metres of each other, or if you touch the same surfaces as another household, that creates an opportunity for the virus to spread.
And we must do everything we can to avoid that.
From today, you are also able to sit or sunbathe in parks and open areas.
You will be able to travel – preferably by walking or cycling - for recreation. However, please stay within, or close to, your own local area. Don’t travel more than around 5 miles from your home.
We do not want to see large numbers of people at tourist hot spots or local beauty spots. So if you do go somewhere and find it is crowded, please change your plans and go somewhere else.
If you haven’t done so already, please go to the Scottish Government’s website and read the guidance we are asking you to follow.
I hope that these changes will bring some improvement to the quality of our lives.
But they are deliberately and by necessity cautious - and they have been carefully assessed.
I said yesterday I was nervous ahead of these changes and that’s still the case.
If too many of us change our behaviour a bit more than these changes are designed to allow, we could see the virus spread quickly again and we will be back to square one.
And the consequences of that will be measured, not just in more time spent in lockdown - it will be measured in lost lives too.
So I’m not trying to cramp anyone’s fun this weekend. I want everyone to enjoy these changes - you have more than earned it.
But I am asking you to please do so responsibly. I am appealing to your judgment and your sense of solidarity to each other.
Please stay within the rules.
Apply judgment. We can’t give bespoke guidance for every individual circumstance - but remember that the purpose of the rules is to deny the virus bridges to jump across.
So continue to limit the people from other households you see.
Be rigorous in your hand hygiene.
And don’t allow the virus to spread from you to someone else via a hard surface.
And generally, if you’re wondering whether or not it’s ok to do something this weekend, consider whether you might be providing that bridge.
And if you are in doubt about whether your plans are within the rules or not, err on the side of caution.
Because however harsh these rules might feel right now, abiding by them will never be as harsh as grieving the loss of a loved one.
So please, before you make any plans, stop and think to protect you and your families.
The second item I want to cover today relates to the economy. This morning, as I do every Friday morning, I chaired the Cabinet sub-committee on the economy.
Among the items we discussed was our support for business – and particularly for those industries which are not yet able to reopen.
One of those is – of course – our manufacturing sector. And that’s what I want to focus on today.
We know that manufacturing is vital to Scotland. And that fact has been underlined over the past couple of months.
In that time, manufacturers across country have stepped forward, to help Scotland’s response to the crisis. Many have repurposed or scaled up their operations, to meet the demand for things like hand sanitizer and PPE. In doing so, they’ve helped us to provide our frontline services, with the supplies that they need.
So I want to thank everyone who has contributed to that effort. I also want to thank the many manufacturing businesses – not involved in that essential work – who have remained closed. I know how tough things are at the moment – and I appreciate the sacrifices you are making.
Unfortunately, most of Scotland’s manufacturing businesses will not be able to reopen until phase 2 of our route map. However, during this first phase, they will be able to start preparations, for a safe return to work.
Earlier this week, the Scottish Government published guidance for the sector, on the measures that will need to be put in place.
We are determined to support our manufacturing industry, as it prepares for that restart. We also want to do everything we can to ensure its future success. That was already a priority for the Scottish Government. But it becomes even more important, as the industry recovers from this crisis.
That’s why I am announcing today that we will provide an additional £20 million of funding for Scotland’s new National Manufacturing Institute. That brings our total investment to £75 million.
I can also confirm today that the contract to build the new Institute has been awarded, though work will only commence when it is safe to do so.
The National Manufacturing Institute will be operated by the University of Strathclyde – and it will bring together expertise from academia and industry.
It will allow businesses – of all sizes – to access research and development. And it will ensure that Scotland remains at the very forefront of advanced manufacturing.
Of course, we also want to improve the support available to manufacturers – at a local level – right across Scotland. So today, we’re also announcing investment in 12 new projects, as part of our Advancing Manufacturing Challenge Fund.
Each of the projects is designed to help small and medium sized businesses. And the Cabinet Secretary will set out more detail on them, shortly.
We know that a strong manufacturing sector is vital to our economic success. So by investing now, we are preparing our economy, for the challenges – and the opportunities – of the post-Covid world.
Of course, for now, the Scottish Government’s primary focus is on dealing with this crisis.
Our country has made significant progress over recent weeks. But make no mistake, this virus has not gone away.
So before I hand over to the Cabinet Secretary, I want to set out for you – once again – what the new rules are.
Let me be very clear – you should still stay home as much as you can. Lockdown has been modified slightly – but it is not over.
You should still be seeing far fewer people than you might normally do.
Don’t meet with more than one other household at a time, don’t meet more than one a day and keep to a maximum of 8 people in a group.
Stay 2 metres apart when you do meet. That will be difficult, I know. We all want to hug our loved ones. But please, don’t put them or yourself at risk.
Wash your hands often. Take hand sanitiser if you are out and about.
Avoid hard surfaces - and clean any you do touch.
And if you have symptoms, get tested and follow the advice on self isolation.
Above all, remember that each individual decision we take, will affect the safety and wellbeing of everyone.
Recent weeks have been tough - and tough times still lie ahead - but I have never been prouder of this country than I am right now.
So let’s continue to stick together and do right by each other.
And remember, at all stages – stop, think and protect.
So I want to thank all of you in advance for doing that - and wish you all, within the rules of course, a happier and certainly a sunnier weekend than we’ve had in a while.
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