Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: First Minister's speech 9 September 2020

Statement given by the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at a media briefing at St Andrew's House, Edinburgh on Wednesday 9 September.

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Good afternoon, and thanks for joining us

I will start with the usual run through of the daily COVID statistics.

An additional 159 positive cases were confirmed yesterday.

That represents 1.9% of the people who were newly tested yesterday and so the total number of cases now is 21,878.

A full health board breakdown will be published on the Scottish Government website as usual later, but my provisional information is that 63 of these cases are in Greater Glasgow & Clyde, 29 are in Lothian, 19 are in Lanarkshire, and 10 are in Forth Valley.

The remaining 38 are spread across the other seven mainland health board areas.

This means that, again today, we have new cases reported in all mainland health board areas.

I want to give a bit of context to our recent case numbers because sometimes it can be confusing to look at case numbers on a day to day basis, so what we do is look at the rolling seven day average of cases.

So over the past seven days, our average daily number of cases has been 155.

Three weeks ago, the average daily number was 52.

So we have seen roughly a trebling of daily cases over that period.

Our case positivity rate has also gone up from being around or below 1% quite consistently, to now in the last few days being around or above 2%.

So I hope you can see why the situation just now is a matter of concern to us and why we need to continue to work as hard as we can to keep the virus under control .

Let me turn to the statistics on patients in hospital and ICU. I can also confirm that 274 patients are in hospital, that is seven more than yesterday.

And six people are in intensive care, which is the same number as yesterday.

And I am pleased to say that in the past 24 hours, no deaths were registered of patients who first tested positive in the previous 28 days.

So the total number of deaths, under this daily measurement, is 2,499.

However, National Records of Scotland has just published its regular weekly update.

And if you recall, that includes deaths of people who have been confirmed as having COVID through a test in the previous 28 days - as our daily figures do - and also cases where COVID is a suspected or contributory cause of death.

The latest NRS update covers the period up until Sunday 6 September. It therefore does not include the three deaths that I reported yesterday.

Up to Sunday, we had recorded 2,496 deaths in our daily figures. Two of these deaths had been registered in the seven days up to Sunday.

Today’s update shows that, by Sunday, the total number of registered deaths with either a confirmed or a presumed link to COVID was 4,231. And two of those deaths were registered in the previous week.

I’m pleased to be able to say today that the first time since the start of the pandemic, that there were no COVID deaths registered in care homes at all last week. That obviously is positive news but it is not a cause for complacency. We continue to pay very close attention and be very vigilant around the care of older people in care homes.

Finally, the total number of deaths recorded last week – from all causes, not just COVID - was 54 higher than the five year average for the same time of year. That said, it is worth remembering that figure does fluctuate a bit from week to week.

Each of the two COVID deaths reported last week and the three reported yesterday, and indeed every single one of those that we’ve reported throughout the pandemic, represents the loss of an irreplaceable individual, so again my condolences are with everybody who has lost a loved one to this illness.

I also want to thank once again everyone who is contributing to our efforts to tackle the virus in whatever capacity you are doing that. It is worth highlighting that today is Emergency Services Day – and so I want to take a particular moment to thank everyone who works in and volunteers in our NHS and our emergency services.

Their service, and their willingness to respond to calls for help, is appreciated at all times - but it has of course been especially appreciated over these past few months.

I will close shortly as I usually do by focusing on our very important public health advice, but before that I want to touch briefly on economic matters.

Today saw the publication of the Royal Bank of Scotland’s latest report on the jobs market in Scotland. It found that recruitment declined last month, all be it at a slightly slower rate than in previous recent months. However, recruitment for new jobs is still declining – even after the steeper falls we saw earlier in the pandemic.

In fact, the survey shows that demand for permanent staff continues to decline in every sector of the economy apart from IT.

This report underlines again the extent of the economic crisis caused by COVID. And it demonstrates the ongoing need for exceptional support for businesses during what are, after all, exceptional times. The Scottish Government will continue to do everything we can, within the powers and resources we have, to provide this support.

We have already provided £2.3 billion of emergency support for the business sector in recent months. And last week’s Programme for Government established a clear, national mission, to not just protect jobs but to create new, high quality jobs with a particular emphasis on low carbon sectors.

And of course we have also warmly welcomed all of the UK Government support programmes not least the Job Retention Scheme.

Today’s report though underlines the need for that Job Retention Scheme to continue and not to end in October - as is currently planned. If that ends in October, which in my view would be premature, it will put many jobs at risk.

And by removing an important source of economic support for businesses, it would narrow the options available to us in controlling the spread of the virus over the next few months.

The bottom line here unfortunately, is that this pandemic will not end next month, and so it stands to reason that the economic impact of the pandemic will not end next month either. So we continue to urge the UK Government to maintain support for jobs and employment for as long as that’s needed. And point of course to examples in other countries where similar decisions have already been taken.

We are trying to allow economic activity, as much of it as possible, to take place as safely as possible, and we do that because of the other harms that happen if economic activity can’t take place.

But, if the virus runs out of control again, we will face restrictions that are in themselves deeply damaging to the economy.

So the best thing we can do right now - not just for our health but also for the long term good of the economy - is suppress COVID as far as we possibly can.

It is not an exaggeration to say that Scotland is currently at a very dangerous point, so too is the UK as a whole as is many of the other countries round the world. We can see from the level of cases in countries like Spain or France, that the current increase in cases could very easily continue - and also start to translate into serious illness and death - if we are not very careful.

And having rightly opened up schools, we are now about to welcome students back to colleges and universities. That is, in so many ways not just a welcome step but a necessary step for the wellbeing of our young people – but it is also a risky development.

That is why tomorrow’s review of the lockdown regulations which I’ll set out in parliament is likely – based on all of the recent data – to take a very cautious approach to any further changes.

In fact, we cannot rule out the need to make changes to the number of people allowed to gather together like those made announced for England last night. We are carefully reviewing existing guidance and regulation – as well as considering what new steps may be necessary to keep COVID under control.

Of course, the key point – which I’ll keep emphasising – is that all of us have a part to play in this.

I don’t say that to detract in any way from the government’s obligations – the principal obligation that the government has to help the country tackle this crisis nor do I say it, in any way to suggest, that the increase in cases we’re seeing right now, is anyone’s fault. It absolutely is not.

We have always known that opening up the economy and society again - which we have to try to do for obvious reasons - gives the virus more opportunity to spread.

But the truth is that tackling this virus has always been - and by necessity always will be - a collective effort.

It needs government and citizens working together, and also it needs every single one of us as citizens to recognise our responsibilities to each other.

The best way of keeping the economy open, allowing life to retain some kind of normality and hopefully get more normality, in the months to come – without the virus running out of control – is to ensure that we all stick to the public health guidelines.

So I would ask everyone to think carefully about that, perhaps think about what matters most to you in your life. Is it seeing family members, is it playing football with your friends on a Saturday morning, going to the gym, seeing other people for a drink at the weekends.

All those things in our lives that we value, that we desperately want, either to maintain them, if we have been able to open up these opportunities recently and if we haven’t been able to open up, to do so. But all of that is put into jeopardy if the virus continues to spread and to spread more quickly. So we all need to think about our own behaviour. 

I know how hard it must be to hear this after six months, and I certainly don’t take any pleasure in saying it after six months – but letting our guard down does allow the virus to spread. So if we all do the right things we minimise the opportunity that it has.

Of course, it’s possible for all of us to do all the right things and still get COVID - this is an infectious virus. But it’s much, much less likely that we will get it - or pass it on to others - if we follow all of the advice.

And that means above all, remembering and abiding by FACTS, the five rules that help all of protect ourselves, protect our families, communities and protect the NHS - and ultimately of course, let’s not lose sight of this, save lives. So let me end with a reminder of FACTS.

• Face coverings should be worn in enclosed spaces
• Avoid crowded places.
• Clean your hands regularly and hard surfaces that you’re touching as well.
• keep to Two metre distancing as we know that that matters to reduce the transmission opportunity of COVID.
• and Self isolate, and book a test if you have symptoms.

None of that is easy, none of it gets easier as time passes but it remains necessary to try to keep this virus under control as we continue, we hope to take further steps back to normal life.

So thank you very much for listening today.

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