- 25 Jan 2021
Thanks for joining us again today.
I will start with the usual update on today’s statistics.
The total number of positive cases reported yesterday was 752.
That represents 8.6% of the total number of tests, and takes the total number of confirmed cases in Scotland to 172,953.
224 of those new cases were in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 138 in Lanarkshire, and 87 in Ayrshire and Arran.
The remaining cases were spread across 10 other health board areas.
In addition I can tell you that 2,016 people are currently in hospital, that’s 6 more than yesterday, and 151 people are in intensive care, which is six fewer than yesterday.
I don’t want to overstate this because the pressure on our NHS continues to be acute and is likely to be so for some time yet. But we think we may have some cautious grounds for optimism that admissions to hospital are starting to tail off slightly.
I’m also sorry to report that 4 additional deaths have been registered in the last 24 hours, of a patient who first tested positive over the previous 28 days.
I should remind you once again, however, that the figures we report on a Monday are often low, because registration offices are largely closed over the weekend.
Since the last media briefing on Friday, we have recorded 81 new deaths. That means that the total number of deaths, under this daily measurement, is now 5,709.
I want to send my sincere condolences to all those who have lost a loved one because of this virus.
I am joined today by the Chief Medical Officer, who will help me to answer questions. Before then, I have a couple of issues that I want to highlight.
The first of those is about progress with the vaccination programme.
I can confirm first of all that by 8.30 this morning, 415,402 people had received their first dose of the vaccine.
From today we are publishing more detailed vaccination figures on a daily basis – including breakdowns of the number of people who have been vaccinated in particular categories. For example the figures will show that in addition to 95% of residents in older-adult care homes, and 95% of frontline health and care workers, we have also now vaccinated 46% of all over-80-year-olds in Scotland, that’s up from the 34% that I indicated when I stood here on Friday.
We are well on track to meet the target date that we had set to complete all over-80s in the population.
From today, letters will start to be sent out to people aged 70 to 79, inviting them to receive their first vaccination jab.
The letters being sent out this week, contrary to what we indicated over the weekend, will be in white envelopes, and will have the NHS logo clearly shown on the right hand side of the envelope, so look out for those in the mail.
If you are over 70 you will receive one of these letters over the next couple of weeks, starting from today.
It is in your interests – and everyone else’s interests – for you to accept the appointment, and get vaccinated as soon as possible.
Today marks a further milestone in a vaccination programme which continues to make good progress. We remain on track to vaccinate everybody who is over the age of 70 by the middle of February.
Just a word of clarity for those who are over 80: you will not be getting one of these envelopes because as has been the case with those in the over-80 category already vaccinated, you will be being contacted directly either by letter or telephone by your GP with your appointment. But if you’re in the 70 to 79 age group, make sure you look out for one of these letters.
I do want to add a reminder to everyone, however, that once you have received the first dose, while it will be a relief you to, it does not start protecting you immediately. That’s a really important point to get across.
The first dose will reduce your chances of becoming ill from Covid after about two weeks. Even then though, the scientific community doesn’t yet know whether it will stop you passing Covid on to other people.
For both of those reasons, it is very important for you to stick to the current rules and guidelines, even after you have received your first vaccination dose.
I know that getting that first vaccination jab, will bring a justified sense of relief to many people – however it is really important to remember, that it doesn’t mean that you should stop sticking to the other advice on avoiding getting or passing on COVID.
The second point I want to highlight relates to support for businesses.
Businesses across Scotland have been badly hit by the pandemic, and one of the sectors which is most severely affected, is the wedding sector.
Covid restrictions have caused many couples to postpone their weddings, or their wedding celebrations. And of course the only weddings that have proceeded, have been very small affairs.
For that reason, we announced targeted support for the wedding sector in December.
I’m pleased to confirm today that applications for support will open on Thursday, and that the size of the support fund is being increased by £10 million - from £15 million to £25 million.
The fund will be administered by Scotland’s enterprise agencies, and will provide grants of up to £25,000 for businesses directly affected by the cancellation and postponement of weddings during the pandemic.
Those include, for example, events venues, photographers, and caterers.
Details of how to apply to the fund will be available on the “Find Business Support” website – at findbusinesssupport.gov.scot. I would encourage any eligible business to make an application.
Businesses involved in weddings employ thousands of people across the country, and of course they also plays an important part in ensuring that couples enjoy the wedding day of their dreams. For both of these reasons, it’s important to ensure that the sector is able to operate once restrictions start to ease.
I hope that this support provides some of the reassurance, and practical help, that enables that to happen.
The final point I want to acknowledge is that 25 January is of course Burns day.
I know that over the weekend there were many virtual Burns celebrations taking place, and I’m sure that there will be a few more today.
I want to thank everyone who has helped to arrange those – whether those are major online events for the public, or small-scale virtual meetings for family and friends.
Virtual Burns suppers aren’t the same as getting together physically to celebrate special occasions. But they are a really helpful way of enabling us to stay safe, while still marking what is a special day for many people.
And that point about virtual Burns night celebrations is of course a further reminder – if any were needed – of the restrictions that remain in place.
We are seeing some early evidence that these restrictions are working, and are starting to reduce case numbers. While it will take a bit of time yet for that to feed properly into admissions into hospital and ICU, we also hope that we might be starting to see some early positive signs there too.
But this is only happening because so many people are complying with these restrictions, and for us to maintain this progress at the moment we must all continue to stick with it.
So I will close, as usual, by summarizing what we’re asking everybody to do.
The most important rule remains a very clear one - stay at home except for essential purposes such as caring responsibilities, essential shopping, and exercise.
If you meet up with someone from another household outdoors, you can only meet with one other person from another household. So a group of no more than two from no more than two households.
You must work from home if you possibly can – and employers have a legal duty to support people to work from home.
And of course, if you are out for essential purposes right now, please follow very strictly the FACTS advice:
- wear face coverings when you are doing essential shopping;
- avoid anywhere busy;
- clean hands and surfaces;
- use two metre distancing if you are talking outdoors to someone from another household
- and self-isolate and book a test if you have symptoms.