Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: First Minister's speech 24 April 2020

Statement given by the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at a media briefing in St Andrew's House, Edinburgh on Friday 24 April.

Good afternoon. Thanks for joining us for today’s briefing.

I want to start – as I always do – by updating you on some of the key statistics in relation to Covid-19 in Scotland.

As at 9 o’clock this morning, there have been 9,697 positive cases confirmed - an increase of 288 from yesterday.

A total of 1710 patients are in hospital with Covid-19 - that is a decrease of 38 from yesterday.

A total of 141 people last night were in intensive care with confirmed or suspected Covid 19. That is also a decrease of 7 since yesterday.

These figures for hospital admissions and intensive care are giving us real and growing cause for optimism that the current lockdown is working to suppress the virus. That’s the good news, perhaps the less good news is that also tells us why we must stick with these lockdown restrictions, because as I’ve said many times before standing here, any easing up on that at all right now would risk us putting all that progress into reverse and the virus quickly running out of control again.  So please stick with the restrictions because as you can see they are working  

I am also, in some other good news, able to confirm today that since 5 March, a total of 2,271 patients who had tested positive for the virus and been admitted to hospital have been able to leave hospital, and I wish all of them well.

However on a much sadder note, I also have to report that in the last 24 hours, 64 deaths have been registered of patients who have been confirmed through a test as having Covid-19 – that takes the total number of deaths in Scotland, under that measurement, to 1,184.

As I’ve said before, we provide these statistics for a very important reason, it helps tell us and tell you what is happening with the virus and how it is progressing across the country and what impact it is having. But the people behind these statistics could be the loved ones of any of us and that’s what I always bear in mind when I report the numbers to you every day. Each and every one of these statistics was a real person and across the country right now their deaths are being mourned by family members whose lives will never be the same again without them. So once again today I want to convey my deepest  condolences to everyone who is grieving for a loved one as a result of this virus.

I also want to thank again – as I always do and always will – our health and care workers.  Last night, I – along with thousands of people across the country – once again took part in the applause at 8 o’clock.  It has become a regular – and very special – feature of our week and our Thursday evenings in particular.  And it’s just one small way in which we show our appreciation, for the extraordinary work that all of you do and I again today I give my sincere thanks to all of you.

That Thursday night applause has also become a way for all of us in streets and communities up and down the land to briefly come together to share some kindness and show some solidarity. At a very grim and difficult  time these really are special moments indeed.

Now, there a two issues I want to cover today before handing on to my colleagues and opening up to questions.

The first issues is just to recap the paper the Scottish Government published yesterday, on how we might begin to go through a process over the weeks to comes of restoring some level of normality to our everyday lives, while we also continue to contain and suppress the virus and minimise the harms that it does.

I can tell you today that since it was published – this time yesterday –  more than 250,000 people have viewed the paper on the Scottish Government’s website. So thank you to those of you who have taken the time to engage with this and I would encourage those who haven’t had the opportunity to do so yet to take some time to read the document. I noted yesterday that most people will never read a government document but if you are ever going to do it at all this is the time. So please take some time to read what we set out, the principles that are going to guide us, some of the factors we have to take into account. And if you’ve got views that you would like us to consider in this next phase of our work then please don’t hesitate to tell us what they are.

As I said yesterday, this publication is an attempt to have grown up conversation with the wider public in Scotland.  We want to be really frank with you every step of the way about the complexities and uncertainties of the decision that lie ahead. We need to be clear now that lockdown remains essential for the reasons I mentioned a moment ago, and that even as we are able to start to ease some of these restrictions, we’re going to have to do so very carefully, very cautiously  - probably very slowly and gradually. We’re going to have to take what I described this morning as baby steps in doing this. We’ve got to try to seek a new normal, because how we are living our lives right now has consequences and can’t go on forever, but we have to recognised the virus has not gone away, so there will be changes in how we live our lives  that will be necessary for some time to come, until science in the form of treatments and a vaccine offer new solutions to us.  

So this really is about all of us and its impact on the lives of each and every one of us and that’s why it’s important everyone feels part of this process.

What’s important to me as First Minister, in contrast to the uncertainties that politicians usually like to express, is that I can also be frank with you about the uncertainties and the complexities of the decisions that lie ahead. Those decisions will make demands on all of us and the lives that we lead so I want that process to be as open as possible. And the paper that we published yesterday, which so many of you have already taken the opportunity to read, is the start of that process.

As I said yesterday,  in the days and few weeks ahead, we will set out more detail on the different options we will consider, as well as the modelling and scientific advice that underpins and informs our decisions.  And of course, as we develop and assess those options, we will continue to engage as widely as possible, across the different sectors and groups of society. 

Lastly,  I want to reemphasise an important point.  It’s one that I made yesterday it and it’s one I’ve made already in my remarks to you today.

Moving on from where we are now will only be possible only if and when we get the virus under control and we have more confidence that is the case. And so it remains absolutely vital that all of us continue to comply with the public health guidance and rules that are in place.

To reiterate, that means staying at home, unless you are going out for essential purposes - such as exercising once a day, or buying food and medicines.

It means that if you do go out, do not meet up with people from other households, and please stay two metres apart from other people.

And it means wash your hands thoroughly and regularly.

By following these rules, we can continue, as we are doing right now, to slow the spread of this virus.  And we can hasten the day, when we return if not to complete, but to some semblance of normality in our everyday lives.

The second item I want to update you on, is our work to ensure that Scotland’s NHS has the supplies that it needs to care for people in this time.

Over the past month, the Minister for Trade Ivan McKee has been leading work to ensure that any shortages are overcome - and that supply chains can continue to meet demand.

That has involved at times sourcing equipment from alternative supply chains.  And where necessary, we have looked overseas to source the equipment we need.

For example, last weekend, a major consignment of PPE arrived at Prestwick Airport, from China. It included 10 million fluid-resistant face masks, as well as equipment for use in intensive care units and laboratories.

I can confirm that, just an hour ago, another of those consignments arrived at Prestwick.  It includes 100,000 testing kits, as well as another 10 million face masks.

Of course, alongside international procurement, we’re also working to boost Scotland’s domestic supply lines.

About a month ago, we put out a call to action, to Scotland’s businesses.  We asked them to support the flow of supplies and equipment, to our health and social care sector. 

To date, more than 1,600 businesses and individuals have answered that call.  And I want to thank each and every one of them. 

We are working hard to assess and coordinate each of those offers, as quickly as possible.  And in doing that, we are prioritising the support that is needed most. 

Our work with Calachem – a company based in Grangemouth – is a good example.  Calachem have now produced 20,000 litres of hand sanitiser.  The sanitiser was manufactured using denatured alcohol from Whyte & Mackay.  It was bottled by the Stonehaven-based company, McPhie.  And deliveries of the product – to our front line services – will begin from next week.

The Scottish Government has formed this supply chain, in an incredibly short space of time.  It will produce 560,000 litres of hand sanitiser, over the next four weeks.  And that will be enough meet the needs of Scotland’s entire health and social care sector.

Another example is the work we’re doing with the firm Alpha Solway.  They are currently manufacturing 20,000 face visors per day, at their factory in Annan.  And in total, they are supplying an order of over one million visors, to our NHS.

These businesses – and many more like them – are doing hugely important work. Rightly and properly we will continue to talk about getting supplies of this kind of equipment to the front line, but I thought it was useful today to give you an insight into the work that’s being done to ensure these supplies keep flowing and the we have sufficient of them to get through this crisis. So these companies and many more in addition to the ones I’ve mentioned today are playing a critical part in our overall collective national endeavour in Scotland to tackle this crisis and I want to put on record today my heartfelt thanks to each and every one.

Let me close today by saying something about this weekend.  I’m conscious that it will be the fifth weekend, since Scotland went into lockdown.  And I know that they only get harder, as time goes on.

I also know that this weekend will be particularly difficult for Scotland’s Muslim communities – who are now observing the holy month of Ramadan.  It will be tough not to be able to host people in your home, or visit friends and family, or attend your local mosque.  And the Justice Secretary, who is himself observing Ramadan, will say a bit more about that, shortly.

However, I want to end by emphasising the sacrifices we’re all making, are having a positive impact.  We have a long way to go, I shared some of that with you yesterday, but it is equally true to say that we are seeing hopeful signs and so it’s vital that we stick with it – and build on the work we’ve done, so far.

By doing that, we are slowing the spread of this virus, we are protecting our NHS, and despite the horrible statistics I report to you on a daily basis, we are saving lives.  So I want to thank all of you, once again, for playing your part and doing that.

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