Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: First Minister's statement - 18 January 2021

Statement given by the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at a media briefing in St Andrew's House, Edinburgh on Monday 18 January 2021.

Thank you for joining us again today.

I will start with the update of today’s statistics.

1,429 positive cases were reported yesterday, which is 12.3% of the total number of tests, and means that the overall number of confirmed cases is now 163,762.

451 of today’s cases are in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 244 in Lanarkshire, and 178 in Lothian.

The remaining cases are spread across the other 11 health board areas.

I can also confirm that, 264,991 people have now received their first dose of vaccine, having focused first on vaccinating care home residents we are now of course continuing to rapidly expand the vaccination programme.

Thousands of vaccinations are now taking place each day at the NHS Louisa Jordan, in Glasgow, and work is ongoing to establish further major vaccination sites. I want to the opportunity to thank the Army for the logistical support they are providing.

All of this is in addition to the more than 1100 locations – many of them are GP surgeries – that are already being used to administer vaccinations.

We remain on track to complete first dose vaccines for the JCVI priority groups 1 & 2 by the start of February. Just to remind you, that includes care home residents – which, I’m pleased to say, are almost complete already - health and care staff, and everybody who is aged over 80.

By the middle of February, we will have completed first doses for groups 3 & 4 of the JCVI priority list - that includes everybody over the age of 70 and also those who are deemed to be clinically extremely vulnerable.

People in these groups will start to receive their appointments later in January.

We aim to complete first doses for everybody over aged 65 by the beginning of March.

And, as I have set out before, we aim reach the whole of the JCVI priority list by early May, and then, of course, the rest of the adult population will follow thereafter.

All of this is subject to getting the supplies we need but we will provide regular detailed updates on progress - in addition to the publication of figures on a daily basis.

Now, if I can return to today’s other figures,  1,959 people are currently in hospital – that is 41 more than yesterday. And as you can see that is now significantly above the peak of hospital occupancy that we saw in the first wave back in April last year, when the numbers of people in hospital at any one time peaked at around 1,500. So that demonstrates the pressure that hospital services continue to be under.

146 people are in intensive care, that though is 1 fewer than the situation yesterday.

And no additional deaths were registered in the past 24 hours, of patients who first tested positive over the previous 28 days.

However, again a word of caveat around that, as you recall,  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, we have recorded 78 new deaths in these daily figures and that takes the total number of deaths, under the daily measurement, is now 5,305

That total is a reminder once again of the devastating impact this virus can have and as I always do, and it is always important for me to do so, I want to send my thoughts and condolences today to everybody who has lost a loved one.

I am joined today by Gregor Smith, the Chief Medical Officer, who will shortly help me to take questions.

Before that, though, I have got a few things that I want to briefly update on.

Firstly, just to highlight that in place of the media briefing tomorrow, I will give a statement to Parliament following the Cabinet’s review of the current restrictions.

At tomorrow’s Cabinet meeting we will look at all the latest data and come to a view on where we are and whether we need to extend the lockdown restrictions to help us further suppress the virus. But I will report on that following Cabinet’s discussions and decisions tomorrow.

In addition, I think it is important to highlight that the new travel restrictions that were announced last week, came into force this morning. These mean that anyone travelling to Scotland - from outside the UK or Ireland - must have a negative test result, from a Covid test taken less than 72 hours before their arrival.

In addition, all travellers from outside the UK and Ireland must self-isolate for 10 days unless they are travelling under one of the small number of exemptions that have been agreed for certain sectors.

These new restrictions are a vital additional measure, to reduce the risk of new variants of Covid coming into Scotland and the UK - 10 day isolation, of course, has been in place for some time but the requirement for a test is a new measure.

We are also considering some additional measures – such using hotels for people from outside the UK who are required to isolate.

But the most important message about travel right now remains a very simple one. Don’t. The best way of tackling the virus for all of us is to stay at home unless there is an essential reason to leave home, and that applies to travel. Do not travel unless you have an absolutely essential reason for doing so.

I have three other points I want to quickly cover today. The first is just to flag up the establishment of a NHS medicine delivery service.

We know that some people find it difficult to visit their local pharmacy – either because of their clinical conditions, or because the nearest pharmacy is some way away.

That’s is always true during the winter months, when bad weather makes it harder for people to walk to pharmacies – especially if they, as they might be right now, required to queue outside before being served.

Many pharmacies already offer deliveries to some people but we want to establish a more consistent and comprehensive service.

For that reason we are investing £5 million to establish an NHS medicines delivery service, which will be available to approximately 1 ½ million people across the country – including those who have been shielding, and other people who pharmacists believe would benefit from the service.

The service will be operational by the end of this month, and it will be available until at least the end of March, although we will keep that under review.

This will reduce the need for some people to go outside for their medicines, at a time, of course, when transmission rates are still high. It will help people who struggle to get to their nearest pharmacy. And ensure that everybody has ready access to the medication that they need. 

The second issue I want to cover, relates to additional support that we are providing for carers - those who have to spend time looking after a family member, loved one or friend.

Carers do an exceptional job at every time, but pandemic has increased the pressure that many of them feel. They have had to carry out their caring responsibilities – at a time when many of them, like all of us, are worried about the risks to our own health, and to the health of the people that they care for.

Many carers have also faced other difficulties during the pandemic,  worries about their jobs and finances.

And of course, the pandemic means that traditional respite breaks for carers are either heavily restricted or completely unavailable.

So we are providing additional funding of £750,000 to support carers over the next few months.

That funding will be mainly directed to local carer centres.

These centres will be able to give small grants to carers - who can then spend that money on something that might give them a bit of a break during these difficult times. The centres will also be able to expand much needed services, such as counselling and support groups.

Carers have undoubtedly played an essential part in helping us collectively to get through the pandemic this far so I want to take the opportunity to say a very heartfelt thank you to everybody who has unpaid caring responsibilities.

Today’s funding is relatively small – but I hope it goes some way to providing that extra support that all of you need and deserve.

I would encourage carers – if you have not already done so -  to get in touch with your local carer centre to find out how this additional funding might be able to help you.

The final item I want to update on today is additional funding for taxi drivers.

The pandemic has been difficult for taxi drivers and their families – just as it has been for people across a range of different businesses. Despite that, taxi drivers have continued to provide a vital service for key workers and vulnerable individuals – and I want to thank all of them for that.

The Scottish Government has allocated a total of £57 million to help the 38,000 private hire and taxi drivers who are registered in Scotland.

Local authorities will be directly approaching these drivers to invite them to claim a grant of £1500  

That, of course, is in addition to the other business support which is available through both the Scottish and UK Governments – and it is intended to help taxi drivers meet their fixed costs, at a time when they are receiving very little income.

Local authorities will be starting this week to get in touch with taxi drivers and get that money to them as quickly as possible.

Before I finish today, I just want to give a quick reminder again of the key rules and guidelines we are asking everybody right now to follow.

Of course the main rule for everyone right now is a difficult one to abide by but a simple one for me to articulate and that is - stay at home.

You should only be leaving home right now for essential purposes, caring responsibilities, essential shopping, exercise, work that genuinely cannot be done from home.

If you meet up with someone outdoors, you should only be meeting with one other person from one other household.

And of course work from home if you possibly can. 

And on any occasion when you are required to leave home, please remember FACTS.

  • face coverings;
  • avoid places that are busy;
  • clean your hands and surfaces;
  • use two metre distancing if you are talking to someone from another household
  • and self-isolate and get a test if you have symptoms.

Fundamentally, though, the best way of keeping ourselves safe right now while transmission rates remain as high as they are, is to stay at home as much as possible.

And as I did last week, if I can appeal to everybody to stick to the spirit of these rules, as well as the letter.

We shouldn’t be thinking about how much we are able to do right now within the rules, instead we should all think about how far we can reduce the numbers of times we have to go out and the numbers of other people we are interacting with.

All of that helps to deprive this virus of opportunities to spread and that means we will get case numbers down, we will get test positivity down and in time we will start to see a reduction in the numbers of people needing hospital, intensive care and sadly dying as well.

And what it means is, that as the vaccination programme continues to gather pace, we will be slowing the virus down and giving the vaccination programme every possible chance of ultimately winning this race that we are in between the virus and the vaccine.

So thank you everybody for everything you are doing to help us with that.

But I will leave you with that central all important message right now - stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.

Thank you very much for listening.

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