Welcome to today’s update.
I will start with the latest statistics.
The total number of positive cases reported yesterday was 677.
That represents 6.7% of the total number of tests carried out.
The total number of confirmed cases in Scotland is now 100,783.
That figure for confirmed cases passed 100,000 yesterday.
That is a reminder of the scale of this pandemic – especially when we consider that the actual number of people who have contracted Covid, will be higher than the number of people with positive test results.
178 of today’s new cases were in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 114 in Lothian, and 103 in Lanarkshire.
The remaining cases were spread across the other 8 mainland health board areas.
I can also confirm that 974 people are currently in hospital – that is a increase of 23 from yesterday.
NHS boards reported 59 patients in ICU yesterday with recently confirmed COVID-19, a decrease of 3 from the day before.
And finally, 1 additional death has been registered in the last 24 hours, of a patient who first tested positive over the previous 28 days.
I would however remind you that registration offices tend to be closed at weekends, and so the figures we report for deaths on Sundays and Mondays can be artificially low as a result.
In total, since last Friday’s media briefing, 28 deaths have been registered.
That means that the total number of deaths, under this daily measurement, is now 3,917.
That figure reminds us once again that this virus is still causing grief and heartbreak every day to families across the country. I want to send my condolences to all those who have lost a loved one.
I am joined today by the Health Secretary and the Chief Medical Officer.
The Cabinet Secretary will talk about the testing of designated visitors to care homes.
The use of lateral flow devices for carrying out those tests, is being trialled from today in 14 care homes around the country. Testing kits will then be sent out to all care homes next week.
Before then, I have two other points that I want to update on briefly.
The first is that over the weekend, Scotland received its first supplies of the vaccine against Covid which has been developed by Pfizer and BioNTech. The vaccine has now been delivered to centres in different locations around Scotland.
This morning I went to the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh, and met staff co-ordinating the delivery of the vaccine - which will be administered from tomorrow onwards.
As you know, vaccinators will be vaccinated first. After that, we will focus initially on vaccinating residents in care homes for older adults, their carers, and other frontline healthcare workers. We will then prioritise people over the age of 80, as supply allows.
This is obviously extremely positive news.
As we have said before, the use of vaccination, in time, should enable us to return to conditions which are much more like normality.
But vaccination is of course a major logistical exercise, and it will take time to work our way through the vaccination programme, starting with those most at risk of losing their lives to the virus. The recent news, therefore, while hugely welcome and positive, does not remove the need for caution during this winter period.
Instead, the fact that we are so close to being able to vaccinate the population as a whole, should I hope encourage all of us to be that little bit more careful - and to pay more attention to the rules and guidelines.
That is linked to the second point I want to touch upon.
Tomorrow we will announce the outcome of the latest weekly review of the levels of protection that apply in each area.
I won’t pre-empt that review, but I will try to discuss some of the issues which we are weighing up when considering which levels should apply to different areas.
The first is that the current levels have undoubtedly helped to reduce prevalence of the virus across Scotland.
Nationally, although it still fluctuates on a daily basis, the percentage of tests coming back positive has come down to much closer to 5%, which is the WHO level for assessing whether the virus is under control.
The picture varies from region to region, but the national situation is clear – the number of new cases has been falling for several weeks now.
That includes reductions in the 11 local authority areas which are currently in level 4.
We have always said that those authorities would move out of level 4 on Friday, and I can confirm that remains the case.
Over the course of today we will be considering what level should apply to these areas from Friday. Cabinet will take the decision on that tomorrow morning.
We are also considering what changes – if any – should be made to the levels applying in other areas.
As ever our decisions will be based on the trajectory of the virus in each local authority, as well as the need to protect capacity in the NHS and to consider the social and economic harms that come from restrictions.
We will look at the hard indicators in each other, but also consider the wider context.
Part of that means taking account of the upcoming Christmas period and the challenges that will inevitably pose.
So in deciding on levels that will keep the virus suppressed through that period, we will continue to take a cautious and careful approach.
For the moment, however, I continue to ask all of you to stick to the current rules and guidance.
Now that we can see the prospect of a return to a more normal way of life in the first half of next year, that should give us all the more incentive to stay safe, and to keep each other safe, over the winter months.
If you are in any doubt about what the rules are, in your local authority, please use the postcode checker on the Scottish Government’s website.
However nobody outside of Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles should be visiting each other’s homes, except for very specific purposes - such as childcare.
If you do meet people from other households – either outdoors or in public indoor places– the limit is six people, from a maximum of two households.
Avoid car-sharing if you can.
Work from home if you can.
Download the Protect Scotland app, if you are able to.
And finally, remember FACTS - the five key rules that we can all use, to reduce our chance of getting the virus, or of passing it on:
- face coverings
- avoid crowded places
- clean your hands and clean hard surfaces
- keep two metres distance from people from other households
- and self-isolate, and get tested immediately, if you have any of the symptoms of COVID.
By sticking to these rules, we can protect ourselves, our loved ones and our communities.
We will also protect our NHS. And we can save lives.
So thank you once again to everyone who is doing that.
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