- 11 Feb 2021
Good afternoon, thanks again for joining us.
As usual I will give you a report on the latest statistics.
The total number of positive cases reported yesterday was 830.
That represents 4% of the total number of tests that were conducted, and means that the overall number of confirmed cases is now 189,175.
243 of the new cases were in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 145 in Lanarkshire, and 116 in Ayrshire and Arran.
The remaining cases were across 10 other health board areas.
1,499 people are currently in hospital – which is 43 fewer than yesterday and, significantly, that means that the number of Covid patients in hospital is now back below the peak of last Spring which is another wee ray of sunshine for us to feel positive about today.
109 people are in intensive care, who have tested positive for Covid - or been admitted to hospital with Covid - within the past 28 days – and that is 4 fewer than yesterday. You might recall, I said yesterday that we would from now on be reporting another statistic every day in relation to ICU. And that is the number of what we are calling long stay Covid patients, people who have been in ICU for a period of longer than 28 days. As of today there are 287 of those and that is two fewer than the situation I reported yesterday.
However, I am sorry to report that 48 additional deaths have been registered in the past 24 hours, of a patient who first tested positive in the previous 28 days.
And that means that the total number of deaths, under this daily measurement, is now 6,599.
Once again I send my deepest condolences, to everyone who has lost a loved one.
Now as you can see I am joined today by Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Nicola Steedman, who will help me answer questions in a few moments.
Before then though there are just three things I want to update you on.
The first is that later today, as is normal on a Thursday, we will publish the latest estimate of the R number. That will show that the R number in Scotland remains below 1.
That of course is reflected in the decline we are now seeing in case numbers, in test positivity, I will repeat my caution against looking too closely at individual days, but the 4% test positivity reported today is the lowest we’ve seen in quite some time. And of course the decline in hospital admissions which is taking the level of hospital patients below the peak of last spring.
All of that is really good news - the rays of sunshine that I spoke about last week undoubtedly are a wee bit brighter this week - but it is nevertheless important for me to continue to stress that the situation, especially in the face of the new, more infectious variant, which now accounts for around three qaurters of all new cases in Scotland, that situation remains precarious and so it demands still, from all of us, continued caution, the utmost caution indeed.
However, the sacrifices everyone is making - and unfortunately the sacfrices we need to continue to make - are slowing the virus down. Lockdown is working.
To ultimately win the race though, we need also to get people vaccinated as quickly as we can.
So the second thing I want to do today is give you an update on the vaccination programme.
Obviously, the bad weather has been a real concern for us this week.
However, as of 8.30 this morning, I can tell you that 1,048,747, I will say that again, 1,048,747, people in Scotland have now received their first dose of the vaccine.
That is an increase of 63,178 since yesterday.
And that actually is yet another record – it’s the highest daily total that has been achieved so far.
And when you think about the truly dreadful weather that most of the country is experiencing right now - which means that many of those administering and receiving the jags will have had to brave extreme elements, deep snow, to get to vaccination centres - I don’t think it is an exaggeration to describe this as a heroic achievement.
And the fact that more than a million people have now received the first dose of the vaccine is highly significant.
It means that we have now vaccinated more than 23% of the adult population – and even more importantly, many of them, most of them, are in the groups wthat we know are most vulnerable to becoming seriously ill or dying from Covid.
So it’s that that gives us real hope that - even if we don’t see the vaccine having an immediate significant impact on transmission of the virus - we will start to see it reduce serious illness and deaths.
So I am immensely grateful and I will be eternally grateful to everyone who is helping to deliver this programme, in the most difficult of circumstances and of course to everybody who is turning up in such huge numbers to receive the first dose.
Now just to complete today’s report in terms of the breakdown of the headline figure, I can tell you that first doses have now been administered to 99.9% of residents in older people’s care homes.
At least 97% of over 80 year olds living in the community have also had a first dose.
And so too have 87% of 75 to 79 year olds in the community, and 54% of 70 to 74 year olds.
So we remain on course to give first doses to everybody over 70, and everybody with a serious clinical vulnerability, by the middle of February.
By that date, many in the 65-69 year old age group will also have had the first dose of the vaccine.
So this is all really positive news, particularly the uptake figures. People are coming forward for this vaccine in numbers I could not have dared hope for. In my wildest dreams I would have hoped for it, but I would have been very scepitical about our ability to achieve the kind of uptake numbers that I have reported today. So that is down to the appetite and willingness of everybody in these groups across the country to come together for their individual protection, but also to play their part in our collective fight against this virus. So again, my heartfelt thanks to everybody.
I don’t want to take away from that, because that is unalloyed positive news, with what I am about to say next, but I do feel the need to repeat the note of caution that I sounded earlier in the week about our expectations, as things stand just now, for the weeks immediately after mid February.
By Sunday, I can tell you, that we expect to have given the first dose to 75,000 more people, than we originally anticipated in the deployment plan that we published some weeks back.
Now, that is good news because that is due to the higher take up rates of the vaccine than we had anticipated.
But in addition to that, we have also received slightly lower stocks of the vaccine than we expected back then, due to a temporary reduction in Pfizer’s manufacturing capacity.
So these two factors – combined with the need to preserve some stocks for second doses starting to get under way – mean that we have to ensure, in the next few weeks, that we dont schedule more appointments than our vaccine supplies allow.
So, we might need to reduce the number of appointments that we schedule over the next few weeks.
But, if vaccine supplies increase again more quickly than we expect, we will very rapidly be able to accelerate the programme once again.
Now I want to stress that this kind of issue is not unexpected, given the huge scale of, and the complexities associated with, a vaccination programme like this .
And importantly, we remain on course to meet the key targets that we have set out. Crucially that immediate target for the middle of February and, slightly longer term, we still anticipate, subject to the supplies being broadly as we expect, that everyone over the age of 50 will have received their first dose by early May together with those who have underlying health conditions.
So any reduction in appointments in the next few weeks will need to be seen in that context.
However the possibility of a reduction below the kind of daily figures we are seeing right now, and it is beyond our control, is something that we should be aware of, when we are reporting on figures over the next few weeks.
And I think it is important for us to set out quite clearly, or as clearly as we can, what our expectations are going forward. Ultimately everybody will get vaccinated. The phasing of that depends, of course, on supplies, uptake and the need to get second doses to people. There’s lots of people working hard to make sure we get this modelling and all of the assumptions behind that right. But for now, I think we can all take some satisfaction from knowing we have a vaccination programme, our biggest tool right now in the ultimate fight against this virus, going really well and people across the country are coming forward in large numbers to take it up. So again thank you to everybody involved in that.
The third and final thing I want to touch on today is just to highlight some improvements which have been made to the Protect Scotland app.
This, remember, is the app that I hope most of you already have on your phones, which allows you to enter in a code if you test positive for Covid.
The app then automatically alerts any other app-users who have been in close contact with you at the time that you might have been infectious – to tell them that they need to self-isolate.
The app has already been really valuable.
It has told, so far, almost 40,000 people to self-isolate. And of course many of these people would otherwise have been notified maybe hours later, or even a day later, or perhaps not notified at all.
Because where the app is especially useful is in notifying people who have been in close contact with each other, but they don’t know each other.
So, we want to continue to build on and improve the app, so the two improvements which I am about to talk about are operational from today.
Firstly, if you are told to self-isolate through the app, from today you can download a certificate on your phone.
And that certificate can then be used as proof when you are claiming self-isolation support, or when you are contacting your employer. Previously, it was only possible to provide a screenshot of your notification – and this was not always being accepted as proof.
The second improvement is more technical and deals with an issue that I know has been a source of frustration to some people.
The app uses an exposure notification system, which didn’t work on some older phones.
In particular for iPhones, the 5S and 6 models could not use the app. More recent models, from the 6S onwards, have always been able to use the app.
But Apple has now made changes, however, which mean that if you have an iPhone 5S or an iPhone 6, the app will now work. And of course that means a wider range of phones can be used.
The app has already been downloaded 1.8 million times. But we want to increase its reach further.
So for those of you who have the app already, please check in your app store or play store to make sure that it is up to date and you have all of the recent improvements.
And if you have an older i-phone, and so when you first tried to download it, you found it wasn’t possible, please have another go now, because it very possibly is open to you now.
The app takes just a couple of minutes to download, it’s easy, it’s quick but it can play a really valuable role in helping us to defeat the virus.
Now, the app of course is one of the ways in which we are trying to get and keep Covid under control.
In the past week, we have also announced plans to expand the availability of testing, and of course implement tighter travel restrictions for people coming into Scotland.
Both of those measures will be important in helping us to suppress Covid – and of course as I have already covered at some length the vaccination programme will increasingly, over time, start to reduce the number of people who are dying with Covid – and then to reduce hospital and ICU admissions.
For the moment, however, the most important way in which we can keep the virus under control, is to stick to the current rules and regulations.
So please - stay at home, except for essential purposes, such as caring responsibilities, essential shopping, and exercise.
Outdoors, please don’t meet with more than one other person from one other household.
Work from home if you possibly can – and employers, please remember you have a legal duty to support people to work from home.
As you have just heard, you should download the Protect Scotland app if you can.
And on any occasion when you do leave the house, please remember FACTS.
wear face coverings when you are doing essential shopping;
avoid anywhere busy;
clean hands and surfaces;
use two metre distancing if you are talking to someone from another household
and self-isolate and book a test if you have symptoms.
Above all else, though, please stay at home as much as is possible - because we know it protects the NHS and saves lives.