Hello everybody and thank you for joining us again today.
I want to start by providing my usual update on the most recent COVID -19 statistics.
I can report that an additional 4 positive cases were confirmed yesterday - that takes the total now to 18,300.
A total of 646 patients are currently in hospital with the virus - either confirmed or suspected which is a reduction of 20 overall and a reduction of 40 in the number of confirmed cases.
A total of 8 people last night were in intensive care with COVID-19, either confirmed or suspected. That is 3 fewer than yesterday.
Since 5 March, a total of 4,096 patients who had previously tested positive for COVID-19 and required hospital treatment, have been able to leave hospital.
At this point, I usually report on the number of deaths – of patients confirmed through a test as having the virus – that have been registered in the past 24 hours. However, we were unable to report that figure yesterday, due to a power surge which affected the servers in National Records of Scotland’s IT system.
That problem I am pleased to say has now been rectified. So the figures I’m about to report to you cover the past 48 hours.
In that time, I’m pleased to report that no deaths were registered of a patient confirmed through a test as having the virus The total number of deaths in Scotland, under that measurement, therefore remains at 2,488.
It’s worth remembering that these figures cover the weekend – a time when registrations can be artificially low. So we may see more deaths registered later this week.
However, they continue a trend that we’ve seen for some time now. And they further demonstrate the continued progress we are making in the battle against covid.
Of course, the loss of life is still devastating. And I know that the statistical trend is of no comfort whatsoever, to those families who are grieving. So once again, I want to convey my deep condolences to everyone who is in that position and who has lost a loved one as a result of this illness.
I also want to thank, as I always do, our health and care workers. Yesterday – on what was the 72nd anniversary of our National Health Service – people across Scotland paid tribute to the work that you are doing. And I want again today, to say thank you to you.
There are three items I want to briefly cover today. Firstly, I will give an update on the situation in Dumfries and Galloway.
Last week, we made the decision to delay the lifting of travel restrictions for people living in certain parts of the Dumfries and Galloway region. That delay was necessary, to allow us to complete testing and contact tracing, and to assess if the outbreak there had been contained.
I can report today that since last Thursday, only 1 additional case has been identified. That brings the total number of cases, within this cluster, to 12.
In total, 23 contacts, have been traced. They have all been offered testing, and they are all now self-isolating.
As a result, we are now as confident as we can be, that this cluster is under control.
However, we are seeking some final assurances and information today around the situation at the Carlisle hospital and more generally in Cumbria. But I am very hopeful that following a further review later today, we will be able to lift the restrictions for Dumfries and Galloway tomorrow and of course, I will give an update on that then.
In the meantime, I want to thank everyone living in the affected area for your cooperation and your patience. That includes all those who have been involved in the outbreak directly, as a case or a contact. Your willingness to comply with the Test and Protect system has been absolutely invaluable.
I also want to thank all of the public health staff in Dumfries and Galloway, who have been involved in the management of this incident.
This will not be the last localised outbreak that we see. And there will be further occasions, in other parts of Scotland, where we may have to ask people restrict their activities, as an outbreak is contained.
But that’s the reality of trying to control a virus, for which we have not yet any treatment and no vaccine. It’s only by complying with strict control measures, that we’ll be able to keep the virus under control – and hopefully reduce the number of outbreaks that we face.
The second item I want to cover today relates to Scotland’s arts and culture sector.
On Friday, we became the first government in the UK to provide direct support to performing arts venues, with the announcement of a £10m relief fund.
We called then on the UK Government to step up and use the powers it has, to provide further assistance. And so we very much welcome the announcement from the UK government last night of a significant package of financial support.
We are now seeking clarity on exactly how the different funding arrangements will work.
And we will engage quickly with those in our culture and heritage sectors, to identify the best ways in which the Scottish Government can now provide additional help. But I can give an assurance today that the funding announced by the UK Government will be passed on in full in Scotland to our arts, culture and heritage sector.
I hope today’s news - together with last week’s announcement from the Scottish Government– will provide people working across the sector with some optimism now about the future.
The final issue I want to cover concerns a further phase 2 changes, which has now come into effect. And the change I want to speak about in particular, is one which I know many people have been eagerly awaiting.
From today in Scotland, outdoor hospitality venues – such as pavement cafes and beer gardens – are able to reopen.
Indoor hospitality will have to wait a little longer – it isn’t due to restart until July 15th. But for our hospitality and tourism sector, today’s reopening marks a significant step.
It’s one which the sector has been working towards, for some time. In June, at the start of phase 2 – we published guidance to help hospitality businesses prepare for a safe reopening. And as I mentioned last week, I visited a beer garden in Edinburgh – on Friday – to see for myself how those preparations were going.
I was impressed with the kinds of measures which had been put in place. They included new procedures to collect customers’ contact details; new signs to promote physical distancing and hand hygiene; and new perspex screens to protect staff and customers.
Scotland’s hospitality and tourism businesses are working hard, to prepare for this reopening. So I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone in the sector, who is playing their part. I know how incredibly hard things have been, over these past few months. Your efforts – and your patience – are hugely appreciated.
The Government is determined to do all we can, to make this reopening a success. We know that implementing some of the safety and physical distancing measures, can create specific challenges and of course reduce the number of people who can be in these places at any given time.
That why we’ve tried to give businesses a bit more freedom, in their use of outdoor space.
Today we’ve taken an additional step. We’ve asked local authorities to put in place a temporary relaxation of planning controls, so that it’s easier for businesses to use public space. Among other things, that could provide them with additional space for physically distant seating.
That should help businesses, in adapting to the new requirements. And I hope it will further ensure that our hospitality sector can reopen in a safe and physically distanced way.
Now, businesses and the government have an big role to play here. But of course, all of us – as customers – have responsibilities too. So I just want to run through some of the very basic guidelines which we all need to follow if we’re going to an outdoor bar, café or restaurant.
For a start, check in advance with the place you intend going to. They might have a booking system in place, to limit the number of people turning up. So it’s best to find out beforehand – rather than have a wasted trip.
When you are out, you need cooperate and comply with what is asked of you.
That includes providing contact details, to the venue, as part of our Test and Protect system. If you’re not willing to do that, you shouldn’t bother going at all. Because, as we’ve seen in Dumfries and Galloway, that system is vital to help us control outbreaks when they occur.
You should not be meeting with people from more than two households other than your own at this stage – and in groups of no more than 8. In fact, some venues might limit gatherings to one single household.
You should still be physically distancing from anyone out with your own household. And you should still be maintaining rigorous hygiene measures.
There should be hand sanitizer provided – so use it, or take your own with you. Businesses should be cleaning any communal areas anyway – but hand hygiene is good practice and it reduces the risk of transmission.
If you do see a crowd gathering – particularly at a bottleneck point - avoid it. Those are really risky situations so don’t take that risk
In short, if you’re out somewhere, and there are no clear safety measures in place, then you should really consider leaving or not going in in the first place because if as you go to a bar or a restaurant outside right now, if it feels entirely normal, exactly as it was before this pandemic, then something is wrong and measures are not being properly implemented
Finally, all of us need to take care, to be patient and polite. Hospitality staff, just like retail staff, right now, are getting used to new ways of working – in very difficult circumstances for them. And they will be asking you to go about your business in different ways as well. So please, show respect for them, and for your fellow customers.
And if we all do that, we can really help to support our hospitality and tourism sector to help it in that process of recovery. And we can ensure that as we do so, we continue to suppress the virus and keep everybody safe.
And that’s the point I close on today.
As we start to see this virus receding – and as we ease more of the restrictions – there’s a real danger, and I guess it’s my biggest worry, that complacency starts to sets in.
We really cannot allow that to happen, we must not allow that to happen. This virus has not gone away. And as we gradually remove the restrictions that have been keeping it under control, there’s a real risk that we will see transmission rise again.
But we can all play a part in making sure that doesn’t happen, so everything we do and everywhere we go right now, we should think how we keep that return to normality as safe as possible and just think, in everything we do, are we creating a possible bridge for the virus to jump across.
And that is why we keep on stressing the public health campaign - the Facts. It summarises the five key things all of us should remember and abide by if we are to keep this virus at bay.
· Face coverings should be worn in enclosed spaces such as shops and public transport.
· Avoid crowded places, even if they are outdoors
· Clean your hands and hard surfaces regularly.
· Two metre distancing remains the overall rule.
· and Self isolate, and book a test, if you have symptoms.
If we all remember those 5 basic measures, then as we get more and more back to life closer to normal than it has been in the past three months we will continue as we do so to keep the virus under control and continue to drive it down, we hope to levels close to elimination.
So thank you once again for listening and thank you for continuing to abide by all of this advice.
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