I have decided to hold a briefing today – even although we had not originally planned one – because I think it is important to update you on recent developments in the north west of England and their implications for Scotland, and also to update you on today’s statistics in Scotland.
I took part in a four nations’ call this morning with the Prime Minister, the First Minister of Wales and the First and Deputy First Ministers of Northern Ireland.
The Prime Minister updated us on the recent developments in the North West of England and the decisions that the UK government was taking as a result.
I support the quick action UK Government took last night.
All of us are going to face these challenges in the period ahead - clusters, outbreaks and possibly, more general increases in community transmission.
It is important that each of us deals with these issues when they arise quickly and effectively.
And I want to be clear that in Scotland, our decisions continue to be informed by our clear strategic objective, which is to seek to eliminate COVID - in other words, to drive prevalence of the virus to as a low as level as possible and keep it there. That will not be easy and it will involve ongoing vigilance, adherence by all of us to public health guidance, and hard work on the part of our Test and Protect teams.
And while each of the UK nations will take decisions in line with our own situations, it is vital that we share data and experiences and co-ordinate our messaging and actions as much as possible.
So I appreciate the agreement of all four governments to co-operation and the sharing of localised information, as we work together to suppress the virus and drive it to as low a level as possible.
Following on from the call this morning, I chaired a meeting of SGORR - the Scottish Government’s resilience committee – because I wanted to consider what actions we needed to take in Scotland.
The Scottish Government has now issued strong advice against non-essential travel between Scotland and the affected parts of the North of England.
Let me be clear, we do not do this lightly – the connections between Scotland and the North of England are strong, important, and highly valued by people on both sides of the border. But we see this as being an important precaution.
Our advice is, of course, designed to minimise the risk of spread from England into Scotland.
But it is also designed to assist people in these parts of England. By not traveling there, we are making sure we don’t exacerbate the challenge they face.
We are therefore now advising that travel between Scotland, and the areas covered by the UK government’s new restrictions, should only be undertaken if absolutely essential.
Those areas are Greater Manchester, East Lancashire and parts of West Yorkshire.
You can find details of the specific locations covered by this advice on the Scottish Government’s website.
If you have already travelled to those areas from Scotland, we are not asking you to cut short your visit - but while you are there, you must follow the UK government’s restrictions, and take extra care to follow the FACTS health advice we have given you throughout this pandemic.
And if you are planning to return home to Scotland from these areas, you can of course do this. But please be even more careful than normal on your return – minimize your contact with people outside your own household and avoid indoor hospitality - and be careful about physical distancing and hand hygiene on your return.
And if you experience any symptoms or have any cause for concern at all, self-isolate and book a test.
I know some families may have been planning travel between the North West of England and Scotland this weekend - either for a holiday, or perhaps to celebrate Eid with friends and family.
I am asking anyone in that position - unless your travel is absolutely essential - to please change your plans and don’t travel to those areas.
In addition to that travel advice, I also want to say something about the situation in Scotland at the moment.
To do that, I’ll start – as is customary - by providing an update on the most recent Covid-19 statistics for Scotland.
An additional 30 positive cases were confirmed yesterday. That is 0.8% of the people who were newly tested yesterday, and it takes the total number of cases in Scotland to 18,627.
I’m going to say more about today’s cases in a moment.
But firstly, I can also report that a total of 255 patients are currently in hospital with confirmed COVID. That is 5 fewer than yesterday.
And a total of 4 people last night were in intensive care with confirmed Covid-19. That is 2 more than yesterday.
Finally, I am glad to say that during the last 24 hours, 0 deaths were registered of a patient confirmed through a test in the previous 28 days as having Covid-19.
The total number of deaths, under this particular measure, therefore remains 2,491.
However the total number of deaths is a reminder of the impact of the virus. I want to send my condolences again to everyone who is grieving the loss of a loved one.
Let me say a bit more now about today’s cases.
Yesterday when I announced the results of a review of lockdown measures, I noted how much progress Scotland has made, but I also noted how fragile our position is.
Today’s numbers demonstrate that. In fact, today is the first time we have seen 30 new cases in a single day in more than eight weeks.
Now, we must pay attention to that – and I want to ensure you that we are paying close attention to that.
But it is also important to put it into context. In early June, when we last reported more than 30 cases, we conducted just over 5000 tests. Yesterday we conducted just over 15,000 tests.
And today’s new cases still represent less than 1% of those who have been newly tested.
They are also spread over 9 of our 14 health board areas.
But we shouldn’t ignore the fact that we are seeing more new cases now than was the case two or three weeks ago.
We are closely monitoring all data about new cases, and of course our test and protect teams are ensuring that all potential contacts of all cases are followed up and tested where appropriate.
Given all the information we have, we still think that the virus is under control.
But the need for caution is more obvious than ever.
One thing which is striking from data we have seen from recent days is that around half of all new cases are in the 20-39 age group.
This is something that we have seen in other parts of the world. Younger age groups - perhaps more likely to go to pubs and restaurants and meet up with friends - are testing positive in higher numbers.
It is natural after all this time to want to socialise and to catch up with people. But these figures should be a reason for caution. I urge everyone – and particularly people in their 20s and 30s - not to be complacent, and to follow the advice.
We know that fatality rates for Covid are higher among older people. But we also know that adults of any age can die from Covid, and that adults of any age can transmit Covid.
And we also know that for anyone, the virus can have serious, harmful and have long lasting effects. Nobody can safely get it or assume that if they get it they will not suffer serious consequences.
The best way of protecting yourself, your loved ones, and the wider community is to stick to the advice in our FACTS campaign.
And for those activities which we are now allowed to do – for example going to pubs indoors – I’d ask you still to think about how necessary those nights out are, and how frequently you go on them.
And remember that the rules on indoor meetings still apply in pubs and restaurants – you should not be meeting more than two other households inside in a pub or a restaurant, and you should be complying with the rules on physical distancing.
I mentioned Eid earlier, and I want to return to that.
Today is a very special day for Muslims in Scotland and around the world. I recognise how important Eid is for all Muslims and I wish all of you Eid Mubarak.
Please enjoy your celebrations - but please do so safely. There are strict rules on physical distancing in mosques, and if you are celebrating at someone’s house – please remember that there should not be more than 3 households there, and remember also the importance of physical distancing and hygiene.
And it is those rules that I want to end on today.
What I’m asking all of us to do – myself included – is to be conscious of our own behaviour, and think about if and how we can do better.
I’ll be doing that, and I am asking everyone else to do it too.
Have we maybe just let our standards slip in the last few days? If that’s the case then this is a moment for all of us to tighten up.
Because every single time one of us breaches one of these rules – whether that is going into an enclosed space without a face covering, or not washing our hands – then we give this virus an opportunity to jump from us to somebody else.
That’s important because the virus is still there, even although it’s invisible.
And so everywhere you go, act as if COVID is in the room with you - because it absolutely could be.
You should then make sure you act in the ways necessary to stop it jumping from someone else to you or from you to somebody else.
Our FACTS campaign summarises the five steps that all of us can take to do that whenever you are out and about. So please, remember FACTS, and stick to these rules.
- Face coverings must be worn in enclosed spaces such as shops and public transport.
- Avoid crowded places.
- Clean your hands and hard surfaces regularly.
- Two metre distancing remains the rule.
- and Self isolate, and book a test, if you have symptoms.
By remembering those 5 basic measures, all of us can play our part in suppressing the virus.
So thank you, once again, to everyone who is doing that. You are protecting yourself, and you are also protecting your community.
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