Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: First Minister's statement – 8 June 2021
At the outset of this statement today, I can confirm that there will be no immediate changes to the Covid levels of protection that currently apply to different parts of the country.
Today, I will provide a general update on the state of the pandemic and, of course, I will address any questions that members have.
Firstly, I will report on today’s statistics.
The total number of positive cases reported yesterday was 695.
That represents 5% of the total number of tests, and takes the number of confirmed cases to 241,864.
121 people are currently in hospital – that is 1 fewer than yesterday.
12 people are in intensive care, which is the same as yesterday.
And I am pleased to report that no deaths were reported yesterday.
That means the total number of deaths registered, under the daily definition, remains 7,677.
Once again, I want to send my condolences to all those who have lost a loved one.
I can also provide an update on the vaccination programme.
It is now exactly six months since the first Covid vaccine was administered, and progress since then has been remarkable.
As of 7.30 this morning, 3,403,866 people across Scotland have received their first dose of the vaccine.
That is an increase of 17,545 since yesterday, and means that almost exactly three quarters of Scotland’s adult population has now received a first dose.
In addition, 30,944 people received their second dose yesterday, which brings the total number of second doses to 2,282,203 - which means that more than half of the adult population is now fully vaccinated with two doses.
These are significant and heartening milestones, and as ever, I want to thank everyone involved in delivering the programme.
Last week, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency approved the Pfizer-scs vaccine for use among 12 to 15 year olds.
That is good news, as it indicates that the vaccine is safe for use in children of that age.
The Scottish Government is now awaiting advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization on the vaccination of children in those age groups.
It is vital that we rely on expert advice in all of our vaccination decisions.
However, vaccination may well be an important way of giving children greater protection, minimising any further disruption to schooling, and further reducing community transmission of COVID.
And so I can confirm that if the JCVI does recommend the use of the vaccine for children aged 12 and over, we will move as quickly as practically possible to implement their advice.
For the moment, however, we continue to focus on vaccinating all adults as quickly as possible.
This remains crucial in the race we are in between the virus and the vaccines.
As today’s figures show, case numbers in Scotland do continue to rise.
In the last week, in fact, they have increased by approximately 50%.
Over the past 7 days, there has been a net increase of 5,475 new cases. This compares to 3,728 in the previous 7 days.
This will partly be a consequence of restrictions easing – it is always the case that as we start interacting more, the virus does have more opportunities to spread - but the recent rise is also being driven by the more transmissible Delta variant, which now accounts for the majority of all new cases being reported..
However, although cases are rising, the key question is the extent to which vaccination is weakening the link between the increase in new cases, and an increase in serious health harms.
We continue to assess the data very closely - and, at this stage, we remain optimistic that vaccination will allow us to move progressively to a less restrictive way of dealing with the virus.
We have evidence that two doses of the vaccine does give protection against serious illness, even with the new Delta variant.
And as I confirmed earlier, more than half of the adult population in Scotland has now had two doses.
That includes more than 90% of people over the age of 60, and more than 80% of those over 50 – the age groups most at risk of falling seriously ill as a result of Covid.
As I indicated last week, it appears that vaccination may be reducing the proportion of people who require hospital treatment as a result of Covid.
At the start of the year, around 10% of new Covid cases were admitted to hospital. In May that was 5%.
However, it is important that we continue to monitor the data so that the full impact of the Delta variant can be assessed.
There is also some encouraging evidence that the length of time people spend in hospital is reducing.
So, taking all of that in account, and just as we all hoped, vaccination may well be giving us more scope to ease restrictions, and therefore reduce the social, economic and wider health harms that the response to the virus so far has caused.
However, while all of these signs are very positive, there is a need for continued caution - especially while a significant proportion of the population has not yet had both doses and so remains more vulnerable to becoming ill and needing hospital treatment.
The number of people in hospital may not be rising as quickly as the number of new cases – but even so, it has roughly doubled in the past month. If cases continue to rise, we will see that trend continue.
And even though, on average, people may be spending less time in hospital, it is still the case that if you end up in hospital because of Covid, the virus has made you seriously unwell.
And of course, in some cases – for example people who suffer from long Covid – you can be seriously ill without ever having to go to hospital.
So in summary our position is still fragile. Case numbers are higher than we would like. The virus does still cause serious health harms. And it still has the potential to put significant pressure on our health service.
That is why we must continue to assess the data carefully, as we make decisions about whether and when to ease restrictions further.
But on the upside - and I want to stress I think it is a very significant upside - the vaccines do appear to be doing their jobs, and that should give us all firm grounds for optimism.
And it is why our top priority - and a key consideration in our future decisions - remains the speed at which we can vaccinate people, so that as many as possible get added protection against serious illness as quickly as possible.
While it is the vaccines that are offering us real hope for the future, it remains the case that we all have a role to play in getting the country back to normal.
And so I will finish by reiterating the three key requests of all of us.
First - please get tested regularly. Free lateral flow tests are available through the NHS inform website so that you can take a test twice a week. I would strongly encourage everyone to do that.
Taking a test tells us if we might have the virus, even if we don’t have symptoms of it.
And of course if you test positive, please make sure you self-isolate, and get the result confirmed through a PCR test. That’s vitally important.
The more we all do tests, the more cases we find, and the more we can break chains of transmission.
Secondly, make sure that you do get vaccinated when you are invited to do so. And please make sure you attend for both doses.
If you need to re-arrange an appointment; or if you think you should have had an invitation by now, and want to check up on that; or if you are aged 18 to 29, and haven’t yet registered for your appointment; please go to the vaccinations section of the NHS Inform website.
Getting vaccinated is in our own best interests – whatever age we are, it makes it much less likely that we will become badly ill from Covid.
But it also helps us protect each other. Getting vaccinated is likely to be the single most important thing most of us will do this year to protect our family, friends and neighbours. So please, when it’s your turn, roll up your sleeve and get the jags.
And finally please continue to stick to the rules where you live and follow all the public health advice.
I know this becomes more and more difficult as time goes on. And I also know that as restrictions ease - bit by bit - and we try to get back to normal, any apparent anomalies in the rules and advice can be frustrating.
We are trying to strike the best and most appropriate balance overall - but I readily concede that it is not perfect.
However, there are some principles that we can and should all follow.
Meet outdoors as much as possible. No environment is ever entirely risk free in any sense - but in relation to Covid, meeting people outdoors poses less risk than meeting indoors.
If you are meeting others indoors, though, please stick to the limits and make sure the room is as well ventilated as possible.
And please continue to follow advice on physical distancing, hand-washing, face coverings. We all long to see the back of these mitigations, but for now basic measures to prevent transmission are really important.
So in summary, please get tested regularly, get vaccinated when you are asked, and continue to follow the public health guidance.
If we all do that, we will help keep the virus under control, while the vaccination programme continues to do its work.
This will help keep ourselves and each other safe, and maximise the opportunity of a summer of fewer restrictions, and greater freedom.
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