I will give a very quick update on today’s statistics.
1,121 new cases were reported yesterday, that’s 5.2 per cent of all of the tests carried out and takes the overall number of cases to 194,269.
1,317 people are currently in hospital with COVID, that’s 66 fewer than yesterday and 99 people are receiving intensive care, which is one fewer than yesterday.
However, I am sorry to report that 64 more deaths were registered of patients who had first tested positive over the previous 28 days and so the total number of people who have died under this daily measurement is now 6,828.
However, National Records of Scotland has just published its weekly update - which includes cases where COVID is a suspected or contributory cause of death.
Today’s update shows that by Sunday, the total number of registered deaths linked to COVID - under the wider definition - was 9,053.
323 of these were registered last week, that is 54 fewer than over the previous week, and again, my condolences go to everyone who has lost someone.
Now, every death from COVID is deeply regrettable and for that reason it never feels quite right to talk about encouraging you in the context of the NRS report.
However, there are aspects of today’s report that really do bear some emphasis because they give us, I think, the first hard evidence of the positive impact of vaccination.
Deaths overall have fallen now for three consecutive weeks. Deaths that occurred in hospitals have fallen over that three week period by 11 per cent and deaths occurring in people’s own homes or in other non-institutional settings have fallen by 29 per cent.
However, deaths in care homes, which were the early focus of the vaccination programme, have fallen by 62 per cent.
In fact, with the exception of one week at the end of August when there were only two COVID deaths registered overall, care homes accounted for a smaller proportion of overall COVID deaths last week, than at any time since March of last year, and I think that is positive news given the toll that the virus has taken on our care homes.
More generally, the age breakdown of the total number of deaths over the last three weeks shows that the largest reduction, a reduction of 45 per cent, was in the over-85 age group. And of course, over-80s living in the community were the next priority focus of the programme.
So I think it is reasonable to take some heart from this because it strongly suggests that the vaccine programme is having the hoped for effect of reducing the death toll from the virus.
On the vaccination programme more generally, I can report that as of 8.30 this morning, 1,320,074 people had received the first dose which is an increase of 32,070 since yesterday.
And as I indicated yesterday, we have offered first doses to all over 70s, all care home residents, all frontline health and care workers, and all people with a serious clinical vulnerability.
And 64 per cent of 65 to 69 year olds have also now received the first dose.
And again I want to thank everyone involved in delivering the programme.
There is just one final point I want to quickly highlight today, which is that from tomorrow, the advice given to close contacts of people who test positive for COVID will change. As well as being asked to isolate for 10 days, they will also now be asked, as a matter of course, to get tested as well.
And if they then test positive, their contacts will be traced, and more chains of transmission will be broken. So this is a further strengthening of Test and Protect.
Now as I confirmed yesterday, next week, we will publish a revised strategic framework, which will set out the data, principles and priorities that will guide our gradual exit from lockdown when the time is right.
But for now, if we want to maintain the good progress we are seeing, and avoid setbacks, we must stick with it.
So if I can end by continuing to urge people to stay at home, except for essential purposes, so that we can continue to protect the NHS and, of course, save lives.
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