Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: First Minister's statement - 1 February 2021

Statement given by the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at a media briefing in St Andrew's House, Edinburgh on Monday 1 February 2021.

Thanks for joining us again today.

As usual I will run through today’s statistics first of all.

There were 848 new positive cases reported yesterday.

That represents 9.5% of the total number of tests, and means the overall number of cases is now 180,533.

Of the new cases, 244 were in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 167 in Lanarkshire, and 111 in Lothian.

The remaining cases are across 9 other health board areas.

1,958 people are currently in hospital with COVID-19 – that is 17 more than yesterday.

143 people are in intensive care, that is the same as yesterday.

And I’m sorry to report that 6 additional deaths have been registered in the last 24 hours, of patients who first tested positive in the previous 28 days.

As you may remember, however, the figures we report on a Monday are often low, because registration offices are largely closed over the weekend. 

Since the last media update on Friday, 72 new deaths have been recorded which means the total number of deaths, under this daily measurement, is now 6,112.

Every single one of those deaths was of an individual, who will be missed and is being mourned by families and friends.

So again today, as I always do, I want to send once again my condolences, to all those who have lost a loved one during this pandemic.

I am joined today by the Chief Medical Officer, who will help me to answer questions.

Before then though, let me quickly update on a couple of issues.

Firstly let me highlight there will not be a 12:15 media briefing here tomorrow

Instead, I will make a statement to parliament – that will take place shortly after 2pm tomorrow – and I will give an update on the latest data and what that means for lockdown restrictions.

That statement will set out our latest thinking on how much longer the current restrictions may need to continue - we have already said that they will last until at least the middle of February.

The statement will also provide some more detail on other steps we are planning to take to help us to keep the virus under control, even when we start to gradually ease lockdown.

The first thing I will say is that the current lockdown is working – you can see that in the figures we are reporting every day. It is helping to reduce the number of cases in Scotland. We should all take encouragement from that.

That said, case numbers are still too high – much higher than we would want them to be. So we need to get them down further and then keep them as low as possible.

Obviously, the vaccine is the most important tool we have at our disposal just now - and I’ll update on that shortly.

But even with the vaccine programme there’s still more we need to do.

For example, as we suppress  the virus more and more within our own borders, we need to do all we can to prevent new cases - and especially new strains - entering the country.

Just as I was preparing for the briefing I saw news from Surrey today where door-to-door testing is getting underway because some cases of the South African variant have been identified there in people with no travel history. The threat of new variants remains a real one. That means we have to be ever more vigilant in trying to stop the virus coming into the country.

We also need to continue, as we have being doing, to improve our own surveillance so that we can quickly identify cases, clusters and outbreaks and get them under control as quickly as possible

So tomorrow’s statement will cover some more about other measures which can help us to control the virus.

So firstly to reduce the risk of the virus entering the country, we have already agreed with the UK to introduce supervised quarantine from some countries. However, as I said last week, we have also been clear that, in our view, the current UK proposals do not go far enough.

So tomorrow we will provide more information about the extent to which we intend to operate supervised quarantine here in Scotland.

We will also set some additional measures we are working on, to make current travel restrictions more effective than they are already.

As well as preventing new cases from entering Scotland, of course, we’ve got to continue to be able identify cases within the country – especially in areas where rates of transmission are high, or are starting to rise. 

You might remember that in December we conducted pilots of large-scale community testing.  In selected communities we offered Covid tests to anybody who wanted one, regardless of whether or not they had symptoms.

We have been assessing those pilots over the last few weeks. At the same time, local authorities have been sending us their proposals for much more extensive use of community testing.

In parallel to that we have been considering whether routine testing can help  reduce the risk of outbreaks, in certain workplaces and businesses where transmission is a particular risk.

We will set out our latest thinking and plans on all of these issues tomorrow.

Now in addition to that, and most importantly, tomorrow’s review will also consider schools and early years provision -  and will set out our most up to date thinking on how and when we might be able to start to resume in-person learning and childcare. Obviously all of us want to do that just as soon as possible.

I will also provide information on some expanded arrangements for testing in those settings.

And in addition, as you might expect, the statement tomorrow will give an update on where we are with the vaccination programme.

I want to, of course, give you an update on that today.

As of 8.30 this morning, 575,897 people in Scotland had received their first dose of the vaccine.

That now includes 98% of all residents in all older care homes. To be clear, that’s not just 98% of people in our older care homes being offered the vaccine, that is 98% who have now received the first dose of the vaccine.

In addition, 88% of the staff working in older peoples care homes have also had that first dose of vaccine. A really important step in order to help protect the people we know who are most vulnerable to this virus.

In addition, 80% of those over the age of 80 living in the community have received their first dose of the vaccine – meaning that we are ahead of schedule to complete first doses  for that age group by Friday.

Vaccination of the over 70 group is now underway – already 14% of over 75s have been vaccinated and this number will accelerate through this week.

By the end of this week, everyone aged 70-79, and everybody in the extremely clinically vulnerable group, in terms of adults in that group, will have received an invitation letter inviting them to receive their first dose of the vaccine. We are well on track for  everyone in these groups to have received their first dose by mid-February. 

Many people aged 65 to 69 have also received appointment letters, with more letters for that age group going out this week in Lothian, Grampian, and Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

As you might have seen in the media this morning, today marks an important stage in the vaccination programme, with mass vaccination centres opening at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, and at the P&J Live complex in Aberdeen.  

The Edinburgh centre will be able to initially administer 21,000 vaccine doses each week, and the Aberdeen centre will have an initial ability of 6,000. Of course, the mass vaccination centre in Glasgow at the NHS Louisa Jordan is already up and running.

Other vaccination centres are also opening across Scotland – many these in smaller communities will be located in community facilities like village halls and sports centres. By the end of this week, more than 150 of these will be operational in different parts of the country - this is of course in addition to centres and the GP practices administering vaccines for the last few weeks.

Assuming supplies of the vaccine come through as we expect them to do, this expansion of capacity means that we are confident of meeting all our targets for vaccinating different groups of people.

I want to take the opportunity to pay tribute to and thank all those who are working so hard across the country to get these shots of vaccine into people’s arms.

Last point on vaccines I want to make is just to remind people, particularly those who have already received their first dose, you must remember that it does not start to have a protective effect until – we estimate – about two weeks after you have received it.

At that point, while we know that it will help to protect you from becoming seriously ill from Covid, we don’t yet know whether it will stop you actually getting Covid or transmitting it to other people.

The reason I am making these points right now is just to remind you that notwithstanding the good progress we are making in vaccination, that doesn’t yet mean we can relax.

And it continues to be the case, that these restrictions are important to suppress the virus to much lower levels than it is at right now. And of course, they only work if everybody sticks with them – including people who have received, or who are about to receive, their first shot of the vaccine.

So please, everybody,  my plea as usual is to stick to the lockdown rules.

The most important ask we are making of everybody right now is stay at home as much as you possibly can.

Please only leave the house for essential purposes. Those include caring responsibilities, essential shopping, exercise and work that genuinely can’t be done from home.

Meetings outdoors should be limited to one other person from one other household.

Work from home whenever you can – employers have a legal duty to support people to work from home wherever possible.

If you are out for essential purposes, please remember all of the FACTS advice.

  • wear face coverings, for example when you are doing essential shopping;
  • avoid places that are 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.

We are, at this stage, making good progress through lots of hard sacrifice and we are also making good progress through the vaccination programme. But the virus remains a real threat, it remains at higher levels than we would want it to be so we still have got work to do, and I am grateful to everybody for your co-operation with that.  

So please - stay at home, to help protect the NHS and of course, save lives.

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