Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: First Minister’s statement 4 November 2020

Statement given by the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at a media briefing in St Andrew's House, Edinburgh on Wednesday 4 November.

Thanks for joining us today again.

Let me give you the daily updates on the COVID statistics.

The total number of positive cases reported yesterday was 1433.

That represents 7.9% of the total number of tests, and the total number of confirmed cases is therefore now to 68,444.

602 of today’s new cases were in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 318 in Lanarkshire, 163 in Lothian and 88 in Ayrshire and Arran.

The remaining 262 cases were spread across 8 other health board areas.

I can also confirm that 1257 people are currently in hospital – that is an increase of 3 from yesterday. And 94 people are in intensive care, which is 2 more than yesterday.

And finally, I deeply regret to say that 50 deaths have been registered in the past 24 hours of patients who first tested positive over the previous 28 days.

That means that the total number of deaths, under our daily measurement, is now 2,927.

National Records of Scotland has also just published its weekly update, that of course includes cases where COVID is a suspected or contributory cause of death.

Today’s update shows that by Sunday just past, the total number of registered deaths linked to COVID, either confirmed or presumed was 4,649.

167 of those deaths were registered last week, which is 61 more than in the week previous.

Of last week’s deaths 127 occurred in hospital, 31 were in care homes, and 9 were at home or in another non-institutional setting.

Now I report all of that as statistics but particularly when we have numbers such as those that I reported today, it’s always really important to remind ourselves that these deaths are not, and should never simply be, seen as statistics. Every single one of them represents an individual who was cherished and loved and whose loss has been mourned by family and friends across the country.

So again, I want to send my deepest condolences to all those who have been bereaved as a result of this virus.

I am joined today by Jason Leitch, the National Clinical Director. I am also joined by Martin Blunden, Scotland’s Chief Fire Officer, who will say a few words about fire safety - as we look ahead to what of course will be a very different 5th of November from the ones we have been used to.

The Scottish Parliament yesterday discussed longer term measures to prevent the misuse of fireworks. But there is also an immediate need to ensure that this year’s bonfire night passes safely, and the Chief Fire Officer will talk more about that shortly.

Before then, I want to cover two points and I will do so reasonably briefly.

Firstly, a quick return to the situation in relation to furlough payments. As you know, the Scottish Government welcomes the fact that the current furlough scheme has been extended until the 2nd December.

That will help employees and businesses across Scotland and the UK who need to use it over that period.

However we continue to make the case – as do our counterparts in Wales and Northern Ireland - that the same level of furlough support must also be available after November. The same level of help for the self-employed should also be made available.

We cannot have a situation where businesses are fully supported, rightly fully supported, when England enters a lockdown, but comparable support isn’t made available, if all or part of Scotland, or Wales or Northern Ireland face similar restrictions.

So I very much welcome the apparent commitment of the Prime Minister to equal treatment, that he gave in the House of Commons on Monday afternoon.

As a result of that commitment, we hope and expect that the furlough scheme will be available at its current levels, those levels that will apply through November if we need to impose stronger restrictions in any part of the country in the future.

But we still have not seen any detailed written commitments on this from the Treasury. And we need to do that, as a matter of urgency. The current confusion and lack of clarity is, and I think this is an obvious point, is not helpful for our decision-making, but it is not helpful for businesses and employees who of course are anxious about jobs and wages at this time. So I hope, although I’m mindful that I said the same thing at this point yesterday, that we will get that clarity over the course of today.

The second point I want to highlight also relates to support for businesses.

Back in July, we announced a £38 million package of support for new companies, in emerging sectors of the economy as well as supporting existing businesses through this crisis, we want to support the sustainable recovery of the economy in ways that help us meet our challenges of the future, not least climate change.

That support included a £25 million fund for recent start-ups, that’s being shared today between 90 businesses. They will receive a combination of grant and investment funding worth up to £300k.

These companies operate are operating in areas which are likely to grow in importance in the years to come – such as software development, space engineering and sustainable packaging.

And so we hope that this support will help them to innovate and grow, despite the crisis currently being caused by COVID.

Today’s funding also shows the mix of measures we are looking at as we try to support economic growth, both throughout and in the future, as we emerge from this crisis.

It is vital for businesses across the country that we work with the UK Government, and agree the details of furlough support.

The Scottish Government is also responsible for deciding funding for some major economic interventions - whether that is business rates relief, and the support grants available for companies which are hit by COVID restrictions.

But alongside that help, we are also responsible for more targeted measures. So today’s support is an example of that and we hope it will help a relatively small number of companies, but companies that have significance for the future, innovate, build and grow.

These are the two main points I wanted to cover today. However before I hand over to the Chief Fire Officer, I just want to emphasise again the current rules and guidance.

And I want to repeat that although we continue to see some positive signs in our data just now, and that’s all down to the sacrifices that people across the country are making. We are still dealing with a very fragile and volatile situation and therefore it is the case that we have a lot of work to do.

As I set out yesterday, given the nature of what we are dealing with right now, it’s not enough and we cannot take sufficient comfort from a situation where we stop the spread of the virus deteriorating. We also need to be seeing a significant and sustained improvement.

Otherwise the risk we would bear is going deeper into winter with a high baseline of infection - that would mean any increase in the R number could quickly see the virus overwhelm us and overwhelm our hospitals.

So we will be monitoring the situation closely ahead of the first review of our new levels system next Tuesday.

In the meantime though, I ask everyone to remember that we all have a part to play in this. The more all of us abide by the rules, the more chance we have of making the progress we need to see. And it’s another opportunity to remind everybody that though this virus makes us all feel a little bit powerless and at times bewildered, no of us are powerless in the face of this if we all stick to the rules, we make an individual and a collective impact on the spread of it.

So let me just briefly in conclusion remind you of what these rules are.

If you are living in one of the areas categorised as level three at the moment – most parts of the central belt, and now also Dundee - do not travel outside your own local authority area unless it is essential. You can find more detail of what we mean by ‘essential’ on the Scottish Government website. But it includes, for example, work that you cannot do at home, or caring responsibilities.

And people in other parts of Scotland should not travel into level three areas except for the same essential purposes.

We are also asking you now not to travel outside of Scotland - to other parts of the UK, or overseas - again unless there is an essential reason for you to do so.

This is, I know, very restrictive but it is essential to avoid us taking the virus from areas of high prevalence to areas of low prevalence and that point is important to stress.

In addition to the travel restrictions across the country right now, none of us should be visiting each other’s homes - again except for specific purposes, such as childcare, or looking after a frail or vulnerable person.

When we do meet people from other households, outdoors or indoor public places, please stick to the limits. No more than six people from no more than two households.

Avoid car-sharing if you can.

Work from home if you can.

Download the Protect Scotland app.

And remember the five rules that everybody needs to abide by to minimise the risk of transmission:

· wear face coverings when you’re out and about
· avoid places with crowds of people
· clean your hands regularly and clean surfaces regularly
· keep two metres distance from people from other households
· and self-isolate, and get tested, if you have any of the symptoms of COVID.

I set this out in some detail yesterday, and you hear me say in regularly over the course of the days to come, we have taken early action in Scotland. Your sacrifices are adding to that, to put us in, not a strong position because no country in the face of a global pandemic can claim its position is strong, but put us in a position that is less severe than many other countries across the world. But it is a fragile position and we must continue to see progress, that obviously will guide decisions government takes but right now, that need to continue to suppress the virus if we are to avoid tougher restrictions that last for longer, is something all of us need to remember in complying with all of this advice and with all of the rules.

So my thanks again to everybody for joining us today and for all the sacrifices that you continue to make.


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