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Thank you, Presiding Officer. I will give a very quick update on today’s statistics.
Yesterday, 692 new cases were reported, which was 3.1 per cent of all the tests that were carried out. The total number of confirmed cases is now 215,075.
321 people are in hospital, which is 20 fewer than yesterday, and 31 people are in intensive care, that is 3 more than yesterday.
I regret to report that, in the past 24 hours, a further 3 deaths were registered and that takes the total number of deaths under this daily measurement to 7,562.
National Records of Scotland has also just published its weekly update that includes cases where COVID is a suspected or contributory cause of death, and today’s update shows that by Sunday, the total number of registered deaths linked to COVID under the wider definition was 9,897.
65 of those deaths were registered last week, which is 39 fewer than in the week before and represents a fall of more than 50% in the past two weeks which is further, very welcome evidence, that the vaccination programme is now reducing deaths in the community as well as in care homes. That said, the total number of deaths also reminds us of the dreadful toll that COVID has taken and I again want to send my condolences to everyone who has been bereaved.
I will also quickly update on the vaccination programme. As of this morning, 2,249,612 people had received a first dose, that is an increase of 34,940 since yesterday.
That means that we are on track, by the end of today, to have given a first dose to more than half of the adult population, which is a very significant milestone.
In addition, 13,581 people yesterday received a second dose, which brings the total second doses now to 249,252.
From today, Public Health Scotland are publishing a daily breakdown of first and second doses within priority group six. That comprises adults with a particular underlying health condition and unpaid carers. They are also providing more detailed figures on vaccinations for health workers and social care workers broken down into those two distinct categories. They have also just published, for the first time, an analysis of vaccinations by ethnicity and deprivation level.
Retuning though finally to today’s figures, they mean that virtually all over 65 year olds have now received a first dose, and so to have 93% of 60-64 year olds; 63% of 55 to 59 year olds; and 41 % of 50 to 54 year olds.
Today we are also publishing an update to the vaccine deployment plan that confirms we are on course to offer first doses to all of the priority JCVI groups by mid-April and also confirms that supplies permitting, we will have offered a first dose to all adults by the end of July.
So all of this is, I think, very encouraging and very hopeful indeed and it means as we take part in this final session of First Minister’s Questions of this parliamentary term, a return to greater normality for the country is now much more in sight.
Of course, all that remains dependent on us continuing to suppress the virus.
So – for now – it is vital that everyone continues to follow the stay at home rule, except for essential purposes, and to continue to follow all of the FACTS guidance. That is how we will continue to protect ourselves and each other and it is how we will get back, I hope soon, to a much more normal way of life.
So, my thanks again to everyone for all of the cooperation and sacrifice.