Good afternoon, thank you for joining us today.
I will start with the usual report on today’s COVID statistics.
The total number of positive cases reported in past 24 hours was 640.
This represents 10.3% of people newly tested, and takes the total number of cases now to 29,244.
As usual, there will be a full health board breakdown later, but let me confirm right now that 232 of the new cases were in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 160 in Lothian, and 73 in Lanarkshire.
The remaining 175 were spread across nine other health board areas.
I can also confirm that 137 people are in hospital – that is an increase of 14 from yesterday.
15 people are in intensive care. I reported 14 yesterday but that was later revised upwards to 16 - so today’s figure of 15 is actually one fewer than yesterday.
Public Health Scotland have also published figures this morning showing that in the week ending the 26 September there were a total of 94 COVID admissions to hospital. That is up from 58 in the previous week.
This is a 60% increase in hospital admissions from one week to the next and it should remind us of how wrong it is to assume that because the recent in cases has been driven by the younger population, it is nothing to worry about.
That is, in my view, dangerous complacency that we simply cannot afford right now.
And, to underline that point, I deeply regret to say that seven additional deaths have been registered of people who first tested positive for COVID during the previous 28 days. The total number of deaths, under that measure, is now 2,519.
That figure of seven deaths is the highest I have had to report at one of these briefings since the 17 June.
It is therefore a very sharp reminder of the fact that COVID is an extremely dangerous virus, as well as a highly infectious one.
National Records of Scotland has also just published its weekly update as it does every Wednesday.
That includes deaths of people who first tested positive for COVID in the previous 28 days - as our daily figures do - but also cases where COVID is a suspected or contributory cause of death.
The latest NRS update covers the period to Sunday 27 September. At that time, we had recorded 2,512 deaths in our daily figures.
Today’s NRS update shows that, at that point, the total number of registered deaths with either a confirmed or presumed link to COVID was 4,257.
Ten of those deaths were registered in the previous week and that is one less than in in the week before that.
Five of those ten deaths occurred in hospitals, four in care homes, and one was at home or in another non-institutional setting.
We of course should never think of any of these deaths as statistics. Every single one of them represents the loss of a unique and irreplaceable individual.
So again today, as I always do, but given the numbers I have reported today I want to particularly emphasise this, and send my deepest condolences to everyone who has lost a loved one. And of course that particularly includes those who have lost loved ones in the past few days.
Now as well as having the Chief Nursing Officer with me today, I also am joined by Shirley-Anne Somerville, the Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People.
Last week, you will recall I said that we intended to introduce a self-isolation support grant of £500 for people on low incomes who have to self-isolate for public health reasons.
Where people who are self-isolating and are well and can work from home, they should of course continue to be supported by their employer. And I would ask again today, all employers to play their full part in making sure that their employees are able to comply with the self-isolation requirement when they are asked to do so.
However the self-isolation support grant will help people on low incomes who will lose money as a result of self-isolation, and who therefore might find it financially challenging or in some cases even impossible to comply unless they have support.
The payment is important because, as I stressed yesterday, self-isolation is important.
If you have symptoms of COVID, you should self-isolate immediately and book a test. The symptoms – to remind you - are a new cough, fever, or loss of or change in your sense of taste or smell.
If the test shows that you have COVID, you should self isolate for ten days from the date of the test.
If you are a contact of someone with COVID, you will be advised to self-isolate for 14 days, and you will be told what the starting date for that time period is.
In some cases, the whole household of a contact will also be asked to self-isolate.
Self-isolation is a really crucial way in which we can stop people who have the virus - or who might have the virus, but aren’t yet showing symptoms or aren’t yet infectious – from going out and about and transmitting it to other people.
It is a really important contribution that at some point all of us might need to make to this collective effort against COVID.
But we know self-isolation is also really tough in practical ways. Of course I mentioned yesterday that we are working with local authorities to offer proactive help to people who need food delivered for example. But it can be an especially tough thing to ask for people on low incomes, people who might be less able to work from home, and may be more likely to be on zero hours contracts, or to have low levels of statutory sick pay.
Fundamentally, we must make sure that nobody feels that they have to choose between doing the right thing – by staying at home – and feeding themselves or their family.
So this payment is an important way in which we can help people, while they help all of us.
And I hope It will enable people to do the right thing at a very difficult time.
Before I hand over to Shirley-Anne, I just want to close by highlighting again our key public health advice.
None of us should be visiting each other’s homes at the moment and that applies in every part of Scotland – except of course for very specific purposes such as childcare or to look after a vulnerable person.
This is the key sacrifice we are, all of us, being asked to make right now because it is the most effective way of reducing transmission of COVID from one household to another. So please make sure that you comply with this.
When you meet other people outdoors, or in indoor public places that are subject to guidance, the maximum group size allowed is six people, and of course these six people should come from no more than two different households.
Outdoors, that does not include children under 12, they can play freely with their friends which is important for the wellbeing of our youngest children.
And the limit of two households does not include children aged 12 to 17. They can meet outdoors in groups of up to six, but they should still physically distance from one another.
But sticking with these limits is really important for the rest of us.
There are of course other steps we should all also be taking to reduce our chances of getting or spreading the virus. One of the things I want to highlight is that we should think carefully about car sharing.
That is something that is cropping up in Test and Protect reports. You should only share a car with someone from another household if it is essential, and if you do, make sure you are taking precautions – keep the window open for example, and wear a face covering.
Work from home if you can.
Download the Protect Scotland app, if you haven’t already done so.
And finally, remember when you are out and about and interacting with other people, remember FACTS – the five rules which will help us reduce the risk of transmission.
- wear a face covering in any enclosed space
- avoid crowded places
- clean your hands regularly and clean hard surfaces that you are touching
- keep two metres from people in other households.
- and as I have already talked about today, self-isolate and book a test if you have symptoms of COVID
Keeping to these rules is never easy. It is not easy for any of us, I really do understand that. But sticking with them helps all of us to do our bit to stop this virus spreading. And from the numbers I have reported to you today, from the picture we are seeing across the UK, Europe and indeed many parts of the world, it should be obvious to all of us of the importance of stopping this virus spreading because we know that when it spreads it does real damage to too many people.
Please stick with this for the sake of yourselves, your families, your communities and the whole of Scotland.
My thanks to all of you for joining us today, and for listening as always.
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