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 1,018.
That represents 4.8% of the total number of tests, and takes the total number of confirmed cases in Scotland to 86,630.
391 of the new cases were in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 162 in Lanarkshire, and 123 in Lothian.
The remaining cases were spread across the other 8 mainland health board areas.
I can also confirm that 1,234 people are currently in hospital – that is an increase of 22 from yesterday.
And 88 people are in intensive care, which is 3 more than yesterday.
And finally, I regret to say that 32 deaths have been registered in the past 24 hours of a patient who first tested positive over the previous 28 days.
That takes the total number of deaths, under this measurement, to 3,459.
Each one of those deaths represents a unique individual whose loss has caused grief and heartbreak.
So once again, I want to send my condolences to all those who have lost a loved one during this pandemic.
I am joined today by our National Clinical Director Jason Leitch. Jason will be helping me to answer the journalists’ questions in a moment.
Before we get to that, though, I want to talk about the restrictions which will come into force later today.
From 6 o’clock this evening, 11 local authority areas in Scotland will move to level 4. Those areas are: the City of Glasgow, Renfrewshire, East Renfrewshire, East Dunbartonshire, West Dunbartonshire, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire, East Ayrshire, South Ayrshire, Stirling and West Lothian.
Infection rates in most of these areas have stabilised, thanks to the sacrifices we have all made, but remain stubbornly high. And if the situation continues, more people will die or fall seriously ill.
There is also a danger that our hospital and ICU services will become even more stretched, as we move deeper into winter. That will affect our ability to treat Covid patients, and also to offer other services to treat other illnesses.
And in addition, we want rates to come down further before Christmas, when people might be meeting up with family members a bit more than now. The fewer people in the population who have Covid by the time we get to Christmas, the lower the risk of others being infected during that period. The risks would not be zero - which is why we must be very careful about any relaxation over Christmas - but they would be lower.
That is why we have decided to move these eleven council areas into level 4, for a period of three weeks – until 11 December.
This is not a decision that we have taken lightly. And I know how deeply frustrated people in these areas will be feeling right now.
But given the reasons and considerations I’ve just set out – we believe this action is absolutely necessary.
We know – of course – that the restrictions will have a particular impact on businesses. That’s why we’ve put in place extra support – in addition to the UK wide furlough scheme – to help them through this period. Full details of the help available, can be found on the findbusinesssupport.gov.scot website.
I want to make a point to businesses, especially as we approach the Christmas period, we will do everything we can do to support you financially, but the most important thing we can all do is try to get the infection rate down. If we don’t control the virus, businesses will be worse impacted in the longer term.
Detailed information about the restrictions themselves – and what level applies where – can of course be found, on the Scottish Government’s website. However, ahead of I want to take this opportunity to briefly summarise what the restrictions will mean, for people in living in level 4 areas.
Firstly, you should stay at home as much as possible.
Reducing interactions with others, hard though this is, is how we will bring infection rates down.
As is already the case, you should definitely not visit other people’s homes. You can still meet outdoors, in groups of up to six people from 2 households.
But as I said a moment ago, the advice to people in level 4 areas, is to stay at home, or close to home, as much as possible over these next three weeks.
Non-essential retail must close. However, essential indoor retail – which includes food markets, supermarkets, convenience stores and corner shops – can remain open.
Level 4 also sees the closure of close contact services - such as hairdressers and beauty salons - and also of visitor attractions, leisure and entertainment settings and indoor gyms.
Hospitality premises will close – although there is an exception for takeaway services.
And of course anyone who can work from home should continue to do so.
So except for some very limited purposes - including childcare, or caring for someone who is vulnerable; exercise; or shopping for essential goods - people living in level 4 areas you should aim not to go out and about over this 3 week period.
Final point – this is not just something we are living with in Scotland right now. We are seeing similar restrictions in England and across the world. This is a global pandemic and many people are being asked to make the same sacrifices as we are.
That brings me on to the issue of travel. I can confirm that – also from 6pm today – the current travel guidance will become law.
That means - that if you live in a level 3 or 4 area – you must not now travel outside your own local authority area unless it is for an essential reason.
People living elsewhere in Scotland must not travel to level 3 or level 4 areas - again, unless it’s for an essential purpose, such as childcare, or if you have to look after an older or vulnerable person, or if you are part of an extended household.
And there must be no non-essential travel between Scotland and other parts of the UK, or Ireland.
In addition – of course – we are continuing to advise very strongly against unnecessary travel overseas, at the moment.
That includes advice not to go overseas on holiday just now.
Now I know people have been asking why it is against the law - depending on where you live - to travel to an airport but not against the law to fly to another country.
So I want to be clear about this. Just because its not against the law to travel overseas doesn’t mean we think its OK to do it just now.
This is a global pandemic and it is for that reason that we have repeatedly advised people not to travel overseas unless it is for an essential purpose.
Some have also asked if people would get refunds on flights or holidays booked if we made overseas travel against the law.
That does not follow. Your entitlement to a refund will depend on the terms of your travel insurance.
For all these reasons, our advice is not to book non-essential overseas travel.
The basic point is that travel anywhere right now carries with it potential risk – whether it’s the risk of importing the virus, or allowing it to spread from high prevalence areas here at home. So the travel restrictions are vital, in helping to minimise these risks – and keep people safe.
All of the restrictions are tough. I don’t underestimate that. But they are essential.
They will help to reduce the spread of the virus, they will help our NHS to cope, and they will give us the best possible chance of being able to see loved ones during the festive period.
The final point I want to make is that although these restrictions are difficult, we can now see a possible end in sight to all of this.
In the last two weeks, there has been extremely encouraging news about possible vaccines for Covid.
The Health Secretary made a statement to parliament about that yesterday – which set out our current planning assumption that - depending of course on vaccines actually being approved as safe and the flow of supplies - we may be able to vaccinate a million people by the end of January, and then the rest of the adult population after that. So there is a very real prospect for all of us, of a substantially more normal way of life in the spring.
That prospect should encourage us. And it should strengthen our resolve to stay safe, and to keep others safe, before we reach that point. By getting through the winter safely, we can look forward to better days ahead.
Of course, the restrictions coming into force today, are just one element in helping us to do that.
All of us – across Scotland – need to continue complying with all of the other key rules and guidelines.
And so to close today, I want to remind everyone – once again – of what those are.
At the moment, nobody outside of Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles should be visiting each other’s homes, except for very specific purposes – that is the most important thing to help control the spread of the virus.
If you do meet people from other households – either outdoors or in public indoor places – the limit is six people, from a maximum of two households.
The one exception to that is for level 1 areas, who can now meet outdoors in groups of 8, from 3 households. But in all other circumstances the rule is 6 from 2.
In addition, please avoid car-sharing if you can.
Work from home if you can.
Download the Protect Scotland app, if you are able to.
And finally, remember FACTS - the five key rules that we can all use, to reduce our chance of getting the virus, or of passing it on:
- remember face coverings
- avoid crowded places
- clean your hands and clean hard surfaces
- keep two metres distance from people from other households
- and self-isolate, and get tested immediately, if you have any of the symptoms of COVID.
These rules will help us to protect ourselves, our communities, and the NHS. And they will save lives.
So thank you to everyone who is doing that.
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