Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: First Minister's speech 11 December 2020

Statement given by the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at a media briefing in St Andrew's House, Edinburgh on Friday 11 December 2020.

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Thanks for joining us again today.

I will start with the usual update on today’s statistics.

The total number of positive cases reported yesterday was 1,001.

That represents 4.6% of the total number of tests, and takes the number of confirmed cases in Scotland to 104,306.

Let me just pause for a second and comment on today’s number, because in absolute terms that number is the highest we’ve had for a little while and is the first time in some days that the tally has been over one thousand. However, just to give a little bit of context, the test positivity is below 5% and that's encouraging because as you will have heard us say previously, 5% on test positivity is the threshold that the World Health Orgainsation considers to be the determinant of whether and outbreak is under control or not. So I think it important to hear that number today with that context.

That said, a number like that is still a reminder that this virus has not gone away, it’s still out there, it's circulating and very infections, so we should not forget that.

Turning to the breakdown of the cases, 246 of the new cases were in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 196 in Lothian, 125 in Lanarkshire, 117 in Ayrshire and Arran, and 111 in Grampian.

The remaining cases were spread across the other six mainland health board areas.

I can also confirm that 999 people are currently in hospital – that is an increase of 15 from yesterday.

53 people are in intensive care, which is 1 more than yesterday.

And finally, I’m sad to report that 31 additional deaths have been registered in the past 24 hours of a patient who first tested positive over the previous 28 days.

That takes the total number of deaths, under this daily measurement, to 4,070.

Each one of those deaths has of course caused heartbreak to families across the country. And so once again, I want to send my condolences to all those who have lost a loved one to this dreadful virus.

I’m joined today by the Chief Constable, Ian Livingstone. He will shortly say a few words about Police Scotland’s approach during this festive period.

I want to stress once again, how much the Scottish Government appreciates the hard work, professionalism and public service of police officers and support staff right across the country. Your efforts are always appreciated, but have been particularly so during the very difficult circumstances of the last few months.

Before the Chief Constable speaks, though, there are a few issues I want to provide an update on.

The first is about an important announcement that was made this morning by the Chief Medical Officers across the UK. It concerns self-isolation.

Until now, household members and close contacts – of people testing positive for the virus – have been required to self-isolate for 14 days.

That same 14 day self-isolation period has also been applied to people travelling to Scotland, from countries that are not on the quarantine exemption list.

However, following consideration of the latest scientific evidence, the UK’s four Chief Medical Officers have advised that the self-isolation period can be reduced to 10 days. They are confident that doing this will not significantly increase the risk of someone transmitting the virus.

So this change will take effect from next Monday – the 14th of December.

From that date, anyone who is told to self-isolate should do so for a period of 10 days, not 14. And if you are someone who is already self-isolating, then from Monday onwards – you can stop once you reach the ten day point.

These changes apply to household members and close contacts of people who have tested positive - whether you are notified by Test and Protect or by the app. And I want to be clear they will have no impact on the payment that is available for people on low incomes who require to self-isolate.  That will be maintained at £500.

The changes will also apply to people travelling from countries that are not exempt from quarantine.

On that specific issue of travel, there are a couple of other developments that I want to update you on.

The Scottish Government announced last night that the Canary Islands have been removed from our quarantine exemption list.  It means that from 4am on Saturday, anyone travelling to Scotland from the Canary Islands, will be required to self-isolate.

We have also added two countries to the exemption list. Those countries are Botswana and Saudi Arabia.  So from 4am on Saturday, anyone travelling to Scotland from these countries will not have to self-isolate.

In addition, we have also lifted the restriction on travel to the Republic of Ireland, with the exception of Donegal – an area with a high prevalence of the virus. However, it is important to note that the Irish Government’s requirements on people coming from all parts of the UK, remain in place.

Once again, these changes show how quickly levels of the virus can change, in a country or area.  And that is of course one of the reasons why we’re continuing to advise against non-essential overseas travel right now. I know this is difficult for people and for the aviation and tourism industry, but it is a key part of trying to keep this virus under control.

The second issue I want to talk about relates the expansion of our testing programme.

I spoke last week about the opening of the community testing site at Johnstone, in Renfrewshire. It’s one of six locations – in west and central Scotland – where asymptomatic community testing has been trialled, over the past fortnight.

I can confirm that the trial at the Johnstone site has now completed.  And the initial indications from Renfrewshire Council are that – over the 8 days of the trial – more than 5,000 people came forward to be tested. That’s around 40% of the identified target population. A good uptake and one that we are pleased about.

The Johnstone site is the first location where we have used lateral flow testing as opposed to the PCR tests that are used routinely – lateral flow tests, as we have discussed before, provide quicker test results. It will therefore be important as we learn lessons for the expansion of community testing in the new year. I’ve been able to give you the number today for the number of people who came forward in Johnstone to be tested, we are still validating the data from the trial and the full results including the number who tested positive from that trial will be available and published next week.

However, I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who came forward for a test.  I also want to thank all of the local partners who helped to deliver this trial, so quickly and safely. 

The final issue I want to say a few words about are the changes to the levels which come into effect today in a number of local authorities.

From 6pm this evening, the eleven local authority areas which have been in level 4 will move down to level 3.  So I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone living in these areas for their patience and compliance over the past three weeks. 

Levels of the virus have reduced in these areas. However, we know from our experience in recent months - and from experience across the UK and the world, that progress against this virus can go into reverse very quickly if we don’t continue to take care.

So I would continue to urge people living in these local authority areas to be cautious – because the virus is still out there and it will quickly start to spread again if we drop our guard.

Please continue to abide by the rules.

That means, in particular, not visiting other people’s houses. I know how hard that is for all of us, but it remains the most effective way of trying to limit transmission.

And please be very careful when you are in places like shops. 

As you know, retail premises which were forced to close under the level 4 restrictions – have been able to reopen, since 6am this morning.

We lifted that restriction a little earlier, in order to help stores manage the expected flow of customers. 

But I can’t emphasise enough that the very last thing we want to see is overcrowding in, or around, shops and shopping centres. So I would encourage you, if you live in a level 4 area, I know many of you will be keen to get back to the shops especially this close to Christmas, but please consider whether you can wait a day or two to allow that flow to be managed. And if you do go to the shops and you find the one you want to go to is crowded, perhaps come away and go to another one and come back later.

There are a few other key points I want to emphasise in relation to shopping. 

First, if you live in an area that is moving out of level 4, or that is already in level 3, please follow the travel restrictions. That means doing your shopping within your local authority area – unless it’s for essential supplies such as for food that you can’t reasonably access in your own area. So if you are in a level 3 area, either already or you will be after 6pm today,  please do you shopping, apart from essential reasons, in your own local authority area.

In addition, people living in other parts of the country should not be travelling into these higher level areas for non-essential shopping. 

So for example, you should not be travelling into Edinburgh or Glasgow from outside those local authority areas, even for Christmas shopping.

And all of us – wherever we live – should be trying to shop locally. By doing that, we can also help to support businesses and jobs in our local area. 

If you do go shopping, please go on your own – or in as small a group as possible. Or order online, if you can, that way you can still get your shopping done, you can still support the retail sector, but you are avoiding spaces that might be busy or crowded.

Be patient if you have to wait, many shops will be asking you to que and limiting the numbers going in.

Show consideration for shop staff, and other customers.

And at all times, remember the FACTS guidance. 

By doing all of this, we can make the Christmas shopping experience much more pleasant. And crucially, we can help to keep each other safe and not lead to an increase in transmission.

Those are the main issues I wanted to talk about today.

If you are in any doubt about what the current rules are, in your local authority  - 16 of which will today go into a lower level -  please use the postcode checker on the Scottish Government’s website.

However with the very specific exception of some island communities, nobody should be visiting each other’s homes at the moment, except for essential purposes.

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.

Stick to the travel restrictions.

In addition, 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:

  • 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-19.
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